EPA Ponders Future Of San Jacinto Waste Pits Superfund Site

Dave Fehling

Harris County officials visiting dioxin-contaminated site along San Jacinto River, east of Houston, in spring of 2013.
The Environmental Protection Agency is poised to make an important decision regarding the San Jacinto Waste Pits. The Superfund site just east of Channelview will either be permanently capped or relocated.

The San Jacinto Waste Pits were a dumping site in the 1960s for toxic sludge from a nearby paper mill.

The Superfund site has partially subsided into the San Jacinto River, and leaking chemicals have spread to the Houston Ship Channel and Galveston Bay.

Jackie Young is with Texans Together, an advocacy group trying to get the waste pits relocated.

"The waste pits contain the absolute worst chemical known to man, dioxin compound commonly known as Agent Orange. They also contain Mercury, PCBs and about 35 other toxic chemicals."

Harris County has filed a $100 million lawsuit against Waste Management and International Paper for mismanagement of the site.

That litigation goes to trial in September.

Meanwhile, construction will begin next week to install a new cap on the pits to stop the leaking.

"We're in a very, very crucial point in the Superfund process. The EPA is going to soon be making their decision on whether or not they're going to let the potentially responsible parties leave the waste pits in the river, capped, or if they're going to require the two responsible parties to remove the waste pits and contain them elsewhere, inland, in a stable, safe environment."

Young says the EPA will hold a community meeting on January 30th at the Highlands Community Center. She says testimony from residents as to the recreational uses of the affected waterways may sway the EPA toward relocating the pits, with a remediation price tag of about $300 million.

Bio photo of Laurie Johnson

Laurie Johnson

Local Host, All Things Considered

Laurie Johnson is the Houston host for All Things Considered at KUHF NPR for Houston. Before taking the anchor chair, she worked as a general assignments reporter at KUHF, starting there as an intern in 2002...