County, Feds Look to Clean-Up Site Along San Jacinto River

Officials with the environmental protections agency say they're in the final stages of designating a piece of land on the banks of the San Jacinto River in Channelview a federal super fund clean-up site.

 

Click to Listen

Just north of the Interstate 10 bridge over the San Jacinto River in eastern Harris County, a small sliver of land juts into the water. Research and recent testing by the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality shows the presence of dangerous levels of dioxin, both in the water and on the land. Harris County Judge Ed Emmett says it's clear some sort of industrial waste was dumped there.

"There were pits and the pits had all kinds of bad stuff in them and then when subsidence occurred, the pits went under the water level of the San Jacinto River, or the little bay there, and so as a result whatever is in there can now leach out into the neighboring water."

The EPA says it's close to adding the 20-acres to its Federal Super Fund list, a move that would free-up federal resources to pay for what could be a lengthy and expensive clean-up. This is EPA's Stephen Tzhone.

"Once we start the Super Fund process, because of the nature of the contamination, because of the nature of what's required to both address the community concerns and the environmental concerns, the investigation and clean-up could very well take millions of dollars and also a number of years before it could be cleaned-up."

Right now, investigators want to know more about what used to be on the land and those details are sketchy at best. The TCEQ's Marshall Cedilote says officials are looking for locals who can help them figure out exactly where the chemicals were disposed.

"Our information suggests that McGinness Industrial Maintenance Corporation operated on that site from somewhere in the mid-1960's to perhaps the early 1970's. We're not really sure about the operational history. If anyone has information about that, who worked out there, what they did, how the pits were constructed, that sort of thing, we would really like to know."     

The more pressing immediate concern is for the safety of residents who still fish in the area where the water is contaminated. Officials say any fish or crabs caught there are contaminated too. County Judge Ed Emmett says getting the site cleaned-up is a must.
 
"I don't think anybody would disagree that if it turns out to hold dioxins, if it turns out to qualify for a Super Fund site, then our task needs to be get after it as soon as possible and get this thing cleaned-up."

Officials think the actual disposal pits make up about 3.5 acres of the 20-acre site, with some of them now underwater.


 

Bio photo of Jack Williams

Jack Williams

Director of News Programming

News Director Jack Williams has been with Houston Public Radio since August of 2000. He's also a reporter and anchor for Houston Public Radio's local All Things Considered segments...