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Additional repairs required for San Jacinto Waste Pits Superfund Site

EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt at right, discusses EPA’s recent finding of damage at the San Jacinto River Waste Pits, with activist Jackie Young, left, and Harris County attorneys Vince Ryan and Terry O’Rourke.

DALLAS (October 19, 2017) Today, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) approved a plan for further repairs to stabilize the riverbed near the San Jacinto River Waste Pits Superfund Site in Harris County, Texas that was damaged by Hurricane Harvey. Following the hurricane, EPA has been conducting an assessment of the site to determine the extent of damage caused by the storm, and the potentially responsible parties found erosion of the river bottom adjacent to the temporary armored cap. EPA directed the potentially responsible parties to stabilize a 40-foot by 400-foot area adjacent to the east side of the cap to prevent future undermining of the armored cap.The temporary armored cap has not been damaged in this area.

Since the hurricane, the survey of the San Jacinto riverbed found erosion of the river bottom up to 12 feet deep near the cap. The total area of river bottom eroded in the vicinity of the cap was over 20,000 square feet. The stabilization work approved today includes placement of a geotextile fabric layer covered with at least three feet of rock with a median diameter of eight inches. It is anticipated that construction will take about three weeks to complete, weather and tide permitting.

EPA Administrator Pruitt Commits to Dioxin Cleanup in meeting with County Attorney Vince Ryan

At a meeting hosted by Harris County Attorney Vince Ryan, Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Scott Pruitt committed to using the full authority of the EPA to remove dioxin from the San Jacinto River Waste Pits.

Ryan, members of the County Attorney’s Office, and other stakeholders met last Thursday with Pruitt to discuss the cleanup. Last week Pruitt signed a Record of Decision that approved a $115 million cleanup plan of the toxic site that will remove highly contaminated material and secure the less contaminated areas.

Pruitt said that the EPA would be negotiating with the responsible parties to design a remedy. If the parties fail to develop a plan acceptable to the EPA, the agency can impose a solution. “I can assure you from the EPA perspective that we are going to use every bit of jurisdiction, every tool under the statute to get this area remediated,” Pruitt said.

Pruitt also said repairs will begin in about four weeks to stabilize an area on the east side of the cap that was damaged in Hurricane Harvey. EPA dive teams earlier reported collecting samples after the flooding caused by Harvey that showed that the protective cap over the waste site “had been damaged and the underlying waste material was exposed.” The EPA found that one of its samples showed dioxins at 70,000 parts per trillion; EPA’s clean up level for the site is 30 parts per trillion. Construction is expected to take about three weeks to complete, weather permitting.

“We are deeply appreciative of Administrator Pruitt’s personal commitment and his visits to the site and to Houston. We want to work with him to get this site cleaned up,” County Attorney Ryan said.

Pruitt met for about an hour with Ryan and representatives of the Galveston Bay Foundation, the San Jacinto River Coalition, Commissioner Jack Morman’s Office, the Port of Houston Authority and the Harris County Pollution Control Department.

The EPA decision will require the companies that deposited the waste to remove it at the companies’ cost. The approved plan would require removal of an estimated 212,000 cubic yards of material contaminated with dioxin at the I10 bridge. The plan will ensure no chemicals are released during this process and that the contaminated material will be put into a secure, stable, inland permitted facility.