Report confirms: Removal of Waste in Pits Best
On Tuesday, March 10, 2015, Jacquelyn Young of the San Jacinto River Coalition and Dr. Kathleen Garland, a Geologist and Environmental Management Expert, held a press conference at 11:00 a.m. at the Houston Public Library’s Concourse meeting room located at 500 McKinney St, Houston, TX. Dr. Garland presented her findings from her newly released report The San Jacinto River Waste Pits Superfund Site: An Assessment of Remedial Options for Sites with Dioxin-contaminated Sediments with Implications for Remedy Selection at the San Jacinto Site.
Dr. Garland’s report compared Houston’s notoriously controversial Superfund Site, the San Jacinto River Waste Pits (SJRWP), to 7 similar Superfund Sites around the country. The report highlighted that larger sites in more complex settings have been fully remediated in order to meet EPA guidelines. The corporate giants (Waste Management of Texas, McGinnis Industrial Maintenance Corporation, and International Paper) potentially responsible (PRPs) for the SJRWP, argue that containing the Waste Pits and leaving them in the San Jacinto River is the best clean-up remedy for the Site – However, Dr. Garland’s report illustrated why this remedy is not an acceptable “clean-up” method per EPA policy and past practices. The containment structure currently atop the Waste Pits was constructed as a Time Critical Removal Action (TCRA) due to the Waste Pits’ imminent threat to human health and the environment and was never intended by the EPA to be the final clean-up remedy.
The analysis of the Superfund Sites similar to the SJRWP and EPA policies built a strong argument in support of full removal of the SJRWP. Dr. Garland explained “In all cases, remedy selection for dioxin-contaminated sediments included physical removal of the most highly contaminated sediments unless such removal would cause channel or bank instability. Implications for the SJRWP: Such a removal appears to be feasible at the SJRWP site.” She also stated that “the preferred remedy for the [Waste Pits] as proposed in the RI/FS by the PRPs does not conform to [EPA’s policy on management of principal threat wastes]… Because of the nature of the contaminants at this site, the chosen treatment must be removal, as no other options exist to reduce the toxicity of these contaminants of concern.”
Dr. Garland is the second local expert to make a firm argument for removal of the SJRWP. In June of 2014 Dr. Sam Brody of Texas A&M, called the Waste Pits a “loaded gun” and pointed out that in a neighborhood near the site, nearly 1 in 4 residents is under the age of 5 years old. All of the contaminants of concern in the Waste Pits are known human and animal carcinogens, as well as developmental toxins.
Houston should be treated no differently than the rest of the country. The press conference was held to inform Houstonians and the EPA that the only acceptable way to clean-up the Waste Pits is to fully remove these hazardous wastes.- from San Jacinto River Coalition Press Release 3/10/2015