HIGHLANDS – About 100 persons joined elected officials and leading environmental activists last Monday night, at the Community Center, to get up to date information on the EPA final decision to remove the toxic waste from the San Jacinto River.
The meeting was hosted by Pct. 2 and Commissioner Jack Morman, and had a festive atmosphere with snacks and drinks served. This is the first public meeting after the EPA announced that the RPD or Record Of Decison had been signed, calling for the complete removal of the toxic material in the waste pits. Most of the attendees in the room had been in favor of that decision.
Officials that were present included County Attorneys Vince Ryan and Rock Owens, Bob Allen of the Harris County Pollution department, and Commissioner Morman and many of his staff.
Presentations on the status of the Superfund process were made by Jackie Young of THEA, Scott Jones of Galveston Bay Foundation, and Rodrigo Cantu of Lone Star Legal Aid. Also present and introduced was Nick Anderson, well-known cartoonist, who had an interest in environmental issues, and is working with THEA on several initiatives.
In his remarks, Attorney Vince Ryan expressed that EPA director Scott Pruitt’s site visit was a good sign of the seriousness of the EPA decision, and that they are committed to the ROD. He admonished the group to keep working on cleaning up the river. He said “The harder you work the more we can keep this on schedule.” To this end, Young asked everyone to send a letter to EPA asking for immediate action, which later in the meeting was a recurring theme of the questioning.
In her comments, Young pointed out that further negotiations with EPA had achieved a gain in the amount of material that would be removed, from 202,000 cubic yards to 212,000. Also, the standard of the pollution level to be achieved has been revised to allow for safer residual material.
At present, the removal process is expected to cost about $115 million, and would be paid for by the PRP, or Potential Resonsible Parties. In this case, it is McGinnes Industrial Material Corporation, now a division of Waste Management, and International Paper Company, who is the successor to Champion Paper Company, the mill that generated the waste.
It is expected that at least 17,000 truckloads of material would be removed from the site, and disposed of in an approved solid waste landfill. This work would commence in 2019, and continue for at least 18 months.