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Houston's handling of waste from bike lanes project in question: 'It shouldn't be on the ground'

HOUSTON – Rosanne Barone, the program director for Texas Campaign for the Environment, recently expressed her concerns over how the city of Houston's Traffic Operations Facility handled a material known as methyl methacrylate, or MMA.

"Wow and that is very, very scary," she said.

Barone, whose organizations examines how materials and chemical waste is handled around the area, also said, "You can see right here that there is the markings that designate this as a controlled substance, a controlled hazardous chemical."

The city of Houston used MMA in the recently completed downtown bike lane project, in the green paint designating these bike lanes.

A city employee contacted Channel 2 Investigates regarding how the containers, as well as the leftover product, were being handled at the Traffic Operations Facility near I-10 and Patterson Street. Images provided show used-up, uncovered containers, some with product in them, piled inside and outside dumpsters.

The Safety Data Sheets show MMA is suspected of causing cancer and state that MMA should not be released into the environment, since its environmental impact has not been fully investigated.

MMA also is a hazardous waste according to federal regulations, with empty containers posing a potential fire and explosion hazard.

MMA is banned in nearly 40 states.

The Texas Department of Transportation told Channel 2 Investigates that it uses methyl methacrylate in some of its projects and that, in order to do so, the material must be evaluated and approved.

The city of Houston, which has responsibility for its own streets, said it had permission to use MMA on the bike lanes.

Rock Owens and his team of environmental attorneys that make up the Harris County Attorney’s Environmental Practice Group said, "The material is still there and it shouldn't be on the ground.”

Owens said any dumpster with any kind of waste in it needs to be covered and in no way should the integrity of the dumpster be compromised.

He summed up what he saw on video and in pictures as follows: “That looked like very poor waste-handling procedures."

Video from SKY 2 shows containers piled up, some completely open, inside the dumpster.

Outside the dumpster, a moisture trail cuts its way to a storm drain a few feet away and only yards away from White Oak Bayou and homes in the Cottage Grove neighborhood.

Barone said of the scene: "That would say to me there is a likelihood that the contamination could be spread by leaking through the dumpster."

It is ironic to some that a project designed to encourage Houstonians to be more environmentally friendly by riding bicycles ends up exposing the city's own shortcomings when it comes to protecting the environment.

The city, which failed to provide a representative to go on camera for Channel 2 Investigates, informed us it will no longer be using MMA in projects moving forward.