EPA to Decontaminate San Jacinto Waste Pits

The San Jacinto Waste Pits leak pollutants into the San Jacinto River. The Environmental Protection Agency placed the waste pits on a super-fund list for clean-up. Houston Public Radio's Laurie Johnson reports.

The San Jacinto Waste Pits are located near the I-10 bridge at the San Jacinto River, in the Channelview area. The waste pits are contaminated with dioxins, which can cause cancer and other health problems.

The EPA placed the site on the National Priorities List last week.

Congressman Gene Green was instrumental in getting that done. He says even though there are signs posted along the river, you'll still see people fishing and crabbing in the contaminated water.

"It's a health hazard because of the people who are fishing downstream. There any day it seems like, and people are there fishing even though there are 'No Fishing' signs posted by the county and the city of Baytown, the people don't obey them and they shouldn't eat those fish, particularly pregnant women and small children."

A year ago, Congressman Green and Congressman Ted Poe petitioned the EPA to add the waste pits to the national list.

EPA Spokesperson Tressa Tilman says only the worst sites are placed on this list. And the San Jacinto Waste Pits made the cut.

"After the site is listed on the National Priorities List, a more comprehensive examination of the site is performed. This is called a remedial investigation and feasibility study. The remedial investigation and feasibility study involve assessing the extent of the contamination and developing different clean-up remedies."

The pollution in the pits appears to come from an old abandoned paper mill. Part of the process involves looking for the people responsible for dumping the waste. It's been at least 30 years since the dumping took place. Congressman Green.

"Hopefully they'll find the responsible parties so they will pay for the clean-up and if they can't then we have to work to get appropriations to do it."

And Green says that still presents a challenge because federal money for these superfund sites has dwindled in recent years.

Laurie Johnson. Houston Public Radio News.

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...