EAST HARRIS COUNTY – Jackie Young, president of the new organization THEA and the San Jacinto River Coalition, held two meetings to update the public on the status of work on the Superfund Waste Pits.
Last Thursday she met with interested parties at the J. D. Walker Community Center in McNair, and this week on Tuesday night she met with the public at the Highlands/ San Jacinto Community Center. Each meeting had about 150 attendees, with only a few at both.
Young said that attendees were evenly divided from affected neighborhoods around the Waste Pits, including Channelview, Lynchburg, Highlands, McNair, and Baytown.
Young spent a lot of time on technical and chemical information, explaining to the interested crowd how Harris County tests had discovered possible contamination, even dioxin, in the well water samples it drew in June. She said that Harris County Polution Control had sampled and tested 100 wells. Of these, 28 had shown to be contaminated, and the well owners had received letters from HCPC telling them “Don’t Drink the Water” until retesting had been completed. Young explained that she understands when the samples were tested, other samples were open nearby, and may have compromised the well water samples.
Harris County is using money from the lawsuit settlement to pay for the testing. Each test, if searched for all contaminants, costs $2,000 and therefore the whole testing program cost $200,000. This was paid for out of the $10 million dollars that the county received from the lawsuit. Precinct 2 has said that all the money will be spent on environmental projects within 5 miles of the Waste Pit site. They have not currently decided how the rest of the money will be spent, but there is under study a proposal to provide water and sewer lines in some of the affected areas.
Young explained that even though the lawsuit awarded $29.2 million to the plaintiffs, including the county, this money cannot be used for individual relief from health problems or well water contamination. These situations must be settled in private lawsuits against the responsible parties, she said.