San Jacinto River Coalition on KPFT
San Jacinto River Coalition was on KPFT’s Eco-ology with hosts HC Conlon and Pat Greer on Tuesday.
Jackie Young discussed the complex issues surrounding the San Jacinto River Waste Pits, the history of the Superfund site, and the Dioxin leaking out into the river from the 50% submerged Waste Pits. “Dixon is an unwanted by product.” Jackie said. “It is persistent, bioaccumulative and is highly toxic in very small doses. … Once it is in our environment, it will be there far beyond our lifetime.” Jackie continued describing how families and their children might be exposed. “It not only makes its way into our food chain by the fish or the bottom feeders eating sediment that is contaminated or other fish that are contaminated with Dioxin… If a mother has been exposed to Dioxin, she can give that to her baby through her breast milk.”
She also discussed with the hosts that there isn’t any safe amount of exposure to Dioxin that the human body or animals can stand. “Dioxin is highly toxic in very small doses.” A fact the jury, which found that International Paper was not responsible for the waste in mid-November, was not told. They were simply told that Dioxin was a hazardous substance. Jackie was certain that if the jury had been shown all the evidence that the trial would have ended differently.
McGinnis Industries and Waste Management settled with the county for $29.2 million dollars and she commended them. “That is them admitting to the community that they were part of the problem and they want to be part of the solution. International Paper knows that the company [Champion Paper Mill] that they acquired created the waste. They were told you are likely going to be liable for this one day. They fought until the end.” Harris County is expected to appeal the verdict.
The site is in a very precarious position. Not only is the site 50% submerged and the slope of the bank is very steep, but it is located near the mouth of the San Jacinto River on one of the most Hurricane prone coasts in the world. Storm surge from a storm would be substantial. Jackie quoted one local expert that the site is “a loaded gun.”
Ms. Young also spoke about how the difficulty of the community understanding the urgency when the know the “water is not coming out green or brown. You don’t really see anything immediately. Dioxin has a long term effect. You could be exposed to Dioxin and it maybe not be until ten years down the line that it affects you.”
When Texans Together did a canvass in 2011, only 23% of the community, even those living right across from the pits, even knew it existed. From the work of the San Jacinto River Coalition, now 70% of the local community is aware of them and very aware of the risk. There is still much outreach and education to be done.
At the public forum that they were holding Tuesday evening, Jackie said that Harris County officials would be there and they would be looking for any ideas that would benefit the community like land conservation, health studies, etc. They want to urge the state and the county to bring the money back to communities impacted by the toxic site for projects that will benefit them.
You can listen to the program by clicking here.