Photo by Susan Du Environmental activist Jackie Young of Texans Together gathers protesters in front of the Waste Management headquarters. Pending an actual "solution for pollution," the county attorney will push on with his suit to collect billions in fines.
As Houston corporate lobbyists fight a county lawsuit seeking to penalize companies for carcinogens plaguing the San Jacinto River, environmental groups have pledged to keep hounding their headquarters with angry rhymes.
In 2011, Harris County Attorney Vince Ryan sued Waste Management, International Paper, and McGinnis Industrial Maintenance Corporation for $2 billion in penalties for the cancer-causing dioxin that's leached out of the San Jacinto Waste Pits for nearly half a century. But Waste Management and International Paper say they only inherited the property after it had been polluted, so they're not liable to pay for full remediation.
Champion Paper and its contractor McGinnes Industrial Maintenance created the Waste Pits in the 1960s, when barges carrying with sludge from a paper mill in Pasadena dumped their contents in pits on the river's west bank. Over time, erosion, rising water and the companies' total abandonment caused part of the Waste Pits to submerge underwater, contaminating the San Jacinto River within a half-mile radius. The pits are currently covered by a temporary cap, which Waste Management and International Paper support leaving in place as a much cheaper alternative to a thorough scrubbing.
The pollution is so extensive that the EPA named the Waste Pits a Superfund site -- part of the federal government's program to repair the nation's concentrations of uncontrolled hazardous waste.More »