Will the Next Hurricane Unleash the Dioxin-filled San Jacinto Superfund Site?

Categories: Environment

san_jacinto_river_Waste_pit.jpg
Image from Environmental Protection Agency
The San Jacinto Waste Pit

Houston wasn't hit by a hurricane this season, but there are questions about what will happen to the San Jacinto Waste Pit superfund site the next time a hurricane roars through town.

The highly toxic Environmental Protection Agency Superfund site has been sitting in the middle of the San Jacinto River for years, full of dioxin and other toxic waste dumped by Waste Management and International Paper Inc. and a slew of other companies over decades, the result of paper manufacturing and paper mill waste disposal practices dating back to the 1960s. In 2011, the site was capped, but a recent report from the Army Corps of Engineers has found that the cap has already begun to erode, according to a release from Texans Together.

The nonprofit organization coordinated with Harris County Attorney Vince Ryan's Office to stage a press conference on Tuesday afternoon urging people to push the EPA to require the companies who dumped the toxic waste in the site to remove it. The cap is already eroding, according to the Army Corps' report, the release stated. The group raised concerns that the cap, though designed to withstand a 100-year-flood event, would be vulnerable when another hurricane hits the area, potentially spilling toxic waste into the river and from there to Galveston Bay.

"If the EPA allows the companies to leave their toxic wastes in the river, taxpayers will pay a huge bill when hurricanes inevitably hit our area," Jackie Young, an environmental geologist with Texans Together, stated in the release. "We need the companies to face this problem head on and remove their toxic wastes before our luck runs out."

Ryan has been in a suit since 2010 against the companies that allegedly dumped the waste into the San Jacinto River in the 1960s. Earlier this year, the companies in the suit tried to transfer the case to federal court but were shot down by the judge. The case is back to state court, where Ryan's office will pursue a $1 billion penalty case against Waste Management, International Paper and McGinnis Industrial Services.

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