SAN JACINTO RIVER WASTE PITS: EPA sets next Community Meeting for June 5th

This Superfund Progress Chart (the Snake) shows that the remediation process has reached the RD or Remedial Design phase.
This Superfund Progress Chart (the Snake) shows that the remediation process has reached the RD or Remedial Design phase.

HIGHLANDS – SJRC/THEA Executive Director Jackie Young announced Tuesday night, at the group’s regular monthly meeting, that the EPA has scheduled a public meeting on Tuesday, June 5th from 6:00 to 8:00 pm, at the Highlands Community Center, for the purpose of informing the public of the status of the Waste Pits Superfund site, and the Settlement Agreement, and to answer questions and hear comments.

Young revealed that she had met with the EPA and others Tuesday, to get an update on EPA plans for the Waste Pits. The venue was an ad hoc group known as the Community Advisory Committee, which according to the EPA is supposed to meet regularly with a select local group interested in the Superfund Site. In fact, it has been several years since the group last met with its members.

Invited to this meeting were EPA representatives, Harris County Pollution Control, HC Attorney’s Office, MIMC (McGinnes), Galveston Bay Foundation, THEA, Texas Department of State Health Services, and Pct. 2 HC Commissioner’s office.

There were no public or media representatives invited.

Young said that at the CAC meeting, she learned that a substantial stockpile of rocks or crushed concrete, 1000 tons, used to repair damage to the cap on the waste pits, has been stored offsite but within 14 miles of the location.

Also she said that EPA announced that a key administrator, Albert Kelly, had resigned today. Kelly was the person that first visited the San Jacinto River site, and recommended to EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt that he visit the site and put it on the Priority list. No reason was given for his resignation, she said.

Young emphasized that despite concerns about removing the San Jacinto River site from the Priority list, which was announced several weeks ago, she was assured by EPA that this was only procedural, and due to the Settlement Agreement, the Waste Pits remediation would continue to be a top priority and move ahead. She said that EPA told her “Political Changes should NOT impact the Clean-up.”

At the CAC meeting Tuesday, Young was able to present some of the community’s concern about the clean-up. These included:

– Noise from cofferdam construction

– Length of time to build cofferdam

– Need for a decontamination area, for equipment coming off the site

– Quarterly inspections of cap should continue

– Groundwater sampling should continue through the clean-up. Young was assured that these would be considered and implemented. In addition, the EPA said their dive team would make inspections this summer, probably in June, and that results of a bathymetric survey would soon be available.

She was told that the cofferdam would take 1 to 1-1/2 years to build, then de-watering would take place, and the cap would be removed in sections for removal of the toxic soil.

The Settlement Agreement has milestones, and penalties if they are not met. It only covers design work. The next step is a Consent Decree, which means the PRP agree to waste removal.

The schedule calls for the whole site to be remediated by Sept. 1, 2020.