EPA made 'right decision' to remove San Jacinto Waste Pits, group says

By Robert Arnold - Investigative Reporter , Aaron Barker - Senior Web Editor

CHANNELVIEW, Texas - Environmentalists on Thursday applauded the Environmental Protection Agency’s decision to remove the San Jacinto Waste Pits.

Jackie Young, executive director of the Texas Health and Environmental Alliance, thanked the EPA for its decision to clean up the mid-1960s Superfund site that is filled with waste from paper mills.

"The EPA has made the right decision," Young said.

Officials with the EPA said floodwaters from Hurricane Harvey damaged a cap that was placed over the sites, prompting fears of potential widespread contamination.

The EPA said Wednesday it plans to remove more than 200,000 cubic yards of contaminated materials and dispose of them elsewhere. The EPA estimates the cost of this project to be $115 million.

Scott Jones, of the Galveston Bay Foundation, said removal was the only option.

"We dodged a bullet with Harvey," Jones said. "It was the right decision."

The EPA said it will begin negotiations with the responsible parties for the site in an effort to reach a settlement to help with the removal work. The EPA estimates the cost of removal and cleanup will take between 60 and 120 days.

Jones said he believes the earliest crews could begin work to remove the site would be in about two years.

One of the companies that could be held responsible for the cost of cleanup disagrees with the EPA’s decision to remove the pits. 

"We cannot support a plan for the site that provides less protection to all affected communities than the existing cap already has provided. We are deeply concerned that the decision announced today could result in a release to the San Jacinto River and downstream areas. We disagree with EPA's claim that the local or downstream areas can be protected during removal. We will review U.S. EPA's Record of Decision in its entirety," read a statement from McGinnes Industrial Maintenance Corp.

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