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San Jacinto River Coalition's Accomplishments 2014 and Looking Ahead

Photo By Julio Cortez/Chronicle

The San Jacinto River Coalition has established a strong leadership group, broad bi-partisan support from elected officials, and over one thousand supporters. Citizens regularly fill government meetings to capacity. In 

January 2014, the EPA called a special community meeting at the Coalition’s request to update the residents. Two hundred community members appeared on a cold weekday night in far eastern Harris County, closely questioning the EPA and calling for full remediation. Harris County Attorney Vince Ryan credits the Coalition for moving the EPA to seriously consider that the Waste Pits’ toxic wastes be fully removed. 

The Coalition has earned extensive print, radio, and television coverage with over 25 major stories including a cover story for Houston Press. The coalition’s work is covered by the Houston Chronicle, Houston Press, Texas Observer, Baytown Sun, and small area papers. In 2014 the Houston Chronicle ran three full page, powerful editorial cartoons on the Waste Pits by Pulitzer Prize winner Nick Anderson, which were widely seen. Both English and Spanish TV have reported frequently on the Coalition’s activities. From a nearly invisible issue in its own backyard, the Waste Pits has become a major public policy issue in the Greater Houston area. 

The Coalition’s scientific reports are also helping win the public debate.  This past June, Dr. Sam Brody, Director of Texas A & M University’s Center for Texas Beaches and Shores, issued a detailed scientific report warning of the site’s vulnerability to hurricanes, tidal surges and floods. He pointed out that the responsible parties’ expert consultants had failed to properly analyze these risks. He strongly recommended full removal of the Waste Pits because they are “a loaded gun” at “the most vulnerable of sites”.  Based on Dr. Brody’s report, as well as the Harris County Attorney’s and Texans Together’s memos on the responsible parties’ consultant’s conflicts of interest and deficiencies, the EPA took the unusual step of announcing that it was obtaining independent experts to consider local flooding and storm data as well as site modeling. The EPA’s action is a huge victory for independent science and the residents of Harris County. The scientific reports contracted by the Coalition have not only impacted the Superfund process, but they have educated and empowered community members. The Coalition’s scientific victories have restored hope in community members who previously had felt their voice didn’t matter. 

In August of 2014 the San Jacinto River Coalition hosted world-renowned environmental leader Lois Gibbs for a community workshop and press event at the Waste Pits, where Lois demanded full-removal of the Superfund Site. The community workshop was hosted at Lee College in Baytown, TX where Mayor DonCarlos of Baytown welcomed Lois and told the audience it was a “no brainer” that the Waste Pits should be removed. Community members from Highlands, Channelview, Baytown, and Houston attended the workshop, along with environmental activist from the Greater Houston Area. The guests were presented with an overview of the Site and expert testimony from Lois on how communities can organize against the toxic wastes in local environments.

Lastly, the Coalition has worked closely with governmental agencies. The EPA has cooperated with us in bringing the community into the Superfund process and welcomes the Coalition to submit reports and information to the agency. The Harris County Attorney’s Office has collaborated with us in participating in our press conferences. It is important to remember there are two separate governmental actions related to the SJRWP: Harris County’s lawsuit which addresses the release of toxic pollution from the Site, and the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) Superfund process which addresses the cleanup of the actual Waste Pits Site. Harris County’s civil lawsuit recently reached a verdict and a settlement of $29.2 million.

Currently, the Coalition is planning a campaign to ensure the health, safety and prosperity of their community by requesting that the allocation of state and county settlement funds from Harris County’s San Jacinto River Waste Pits lawsuit be put to use exclusively for related health and environmental problems in the communities impacted by the Superfund Site’s contamination. The Coalition would like the funds to be used for remediation, health studies, environmental awareness and education within the local community, and other related programs to benefit the affected communities. January 13, 2015 the Coalition will host an open forum for community members the voice their opinions of what they would like the see the funds allocated towards. Additionally, the Coalition continues to work with scientific experts and to engage and educate communities nearby the Waste Pits. The EPA’s remediation proposal for the Site is expected to be announced mid-2015.

Related Information:

Contact Us

Texans Together Education Fund

P.O. Box 1296
Houston, Texas 77251-1296



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Blog | by Dr. Radut