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EPA: Waste pits leaking high levels of toxins in San Jacinto River

HOUSTON – A superfund site along the San Jacinto River is leaking toxins, according to the EPA. 

For more than forty years, the area around I-10 and the San Jacinto River has been a toxic mess filled with dangerous contamination.

It was a dumping site for toxic sludge produced by an old paper mill.

That sludge – contaminated with Mercury and cancer-causing chemicals -- eventually became submerged and was designated as an EPA Superfund site. 

Fishing in the area is dangerous and signs warn against it. In 2011, the Feds installed special caps to contain the toxins. 

Late Thursday, the EPA revealed those protective caps were damaged during Hurricane Harvey and the “waste pits,” as they are known, are leaking, causing highly elevated levels of toxins to seep into the water. 

It was back on Sept. 15 that EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt surveyed the area from the air and the ground. Images show Pruitt meeting with Jackie Young, the executive director of the Texas Health and Environment Coalition. The organization – also known as THEA – provided Channel 2 Pictures from the last few weeks that clearly show crews not only working on boats in the water, but also near the shoreline. 

The EPA ordered the companies responsible for the site – International Paper and Industrial Maintenance Corp. -- to take more samples to make sure the leaks are isolated and don’t migrate. 

The agency says they have already started initial repairs to replace the damaged cap, and may send a dive team back to evaluate the damage again.

Even prior to Harvey the EPA had a long-term plan to address the protective caps. The $97 million dollar plan will remove more than 200,000 cubic yards of sludge. 

If necessary, the EPA will conduct more visual dive operations to search for “displacement in the stone cover of the protection cap” as well as for more evaluations for damage in the area as a result of Harvey.

 

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