EAST HARRIS COUNTY – The federal Environmental Protection Agency announced last Wednesday that they were extending the comment period for the public to express their opinions on whether the toxic waste pits should be removed, or a cap built over them and let them stay in place. EPA granted a 45 day extension, with final comments due by January 12, 2017.
The EPA had announced on September 28 that the Proposed Plan they preferred called for removal of most of the toxic wastes, in the North and South impound areas. They would, however, allow some material to remain if its toxicity was below acceptable standards.
Although this extension came as a surprise to the parties who have been involved in the long Superfund process, nevertheless it is within the guidelines of these types of federal procedures. Any party can request a hearing, or an extension, and the EPA determines whether it is a reasonable request.
In this case, authorities indicated that several parties had made requests for an extension. All of them are proponents for leaving the waste pits in place, it was learned.
Jackie Young, the leading advocate for completely removing the waste pits, expressed a concern that the extension allows more time for the opponents to organize or solicit comments in favor of their position, to leave the wastes in the river.
Authorities said that the requests came from the following companies or organizations:
Keepitcapped, asked for an extension of up to 120 days, on October 4th;
Thomas Kinkerbocker, attorney, asked for an extension of 60 days on Oct. 13;
The Texas Association of Business asked for a 60 day extension on October 17th;
The Winstead Law firm, representing the Potential Responsible Party McGinnis Disposal, asked for an extension of 90 days on October 28th.
Comments may be sent to the Dallas office of the EPA, by the following methods:
Online: www.epa.gov/tx/ forms/sjrwp-comments;
Email: R6_San_Jacinto_Waste_Pits_ Comments@epa.gov:
Postal mail: written comments may also be postmarked by the January 12, 2017 date and addressed to:
Remedial Project Manager, U.S. EPA Region 6, 1445 Ross Avenue (6SFRA), Dallas, Texas 75202.
Jackie Young indicated that she would call a news conference on this subject, on Friday of this week, and release a statement to the media.
At a public meeting on October 20, Gary Miller of EPA reviewed the history of the Waste Pits site, since its start in the 1960s, and its rediscovery forty years later. He detailed how the proposed plan called for a 19 month removal of 152,000 cubic yards of material on the north impoundment, and the backfill with 2 feet of clean soil. On the south impoundment, 50,000 cubic yards will be removed, and a building removed and replaced.
Regarding the 6 plans outlined in the Corps of Engineers study, he said “None of them are reliable for All Storm Events” except the final 6A which EPA adopted. He detailed the problems that have continually plagued the current cap, and the needed constant repairs and monitoring.
Miller revealed that even this month, a new “scour” or erosion 8 feet deep had been discovered in the river bed along the East side of the cap.
He said that the proposed solution will be safe, with sheet piling retaining the wastes, monitoring during the work, and contingency plans in case of storms or floods.
He also revealed a disappointing schedule for the balance of the work. A Record of Decision (final) will be made early in 2017, then 1 year of negotiation with the PRPs, 2 years of design and engineering, and finally the removal work would commence in 2020 and continue for 19 months.