WATCH: EPA announces full removal of toxins at San Jacinto River Waste Pits

HOUSTON — The Texas Health and Environment Alliance held a press conference Thursday afternoon to announce its final Record of Decision (ROD) to clean-up the toxic pits that have plagued  communities surrounding the San Jacinto River Waste Pits.

The San Jacinto River Waste Pits Superfund Site, created in the mid-1960’s and abandoned by 1968, are pits along and submerged in the San Jacinto River. The Pits are filled with carcinogenic paper mil wastes. The Pits were rediscovered in 2005 and by 2008 they were listed as a national priority for the EPA to clean-up.

For nearly seven years the San Jacinto River Coalition has led the community towards becoming educated and engaged with the issue. For years, there has been a tug-of-war between local communities and those responsible for the Waste Pits.

International Paper and McGinnis Industrial Maintenance Corporation,  a subsidiary of Waste Management, are the companies the EPA has named as the potentially responsible parties and they will fund the clean-up under EPA oversight.

EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt visited the Waste Pits following Hurricane Harvey. He gave his word to our executive director, Jackie Young, that he would release a final decision for the site by the Oklahoma vs. Texas football game.

“Administrator Pruitt expressed his sympathy for the local communities recovering from Harvey while not knowing if floodwaters carried toxins to their yards or into their homes,” Young said. “He gave us his word we would have a final decision soon and he has upheld his word- we couldn’t be happier with the EPA’s announcement today. This is a monumental victory and testament to what an engaged community can accomplish. We are thankful for the support of Harris County and our numerous nonprofit and academic partners who have also worked towards removal.”

Following Hurricane Harvey the EPA’s dive team discovered astronomical levels of dioxin in the San Jac’s river sediment- levels 2,330 times what is said to be safe for a recreational fisherman or residential property. The temporary cap atop the Waste Pits has proven incapable of working in its short lifetime and the EPA’s ROD is truly the only remedy that can provide long-term reliability for preventing exposure of harmful toxins to the environment, public health, and Galveston Bay’s fishery.

“We may never know the extent of damage from Hurricane Harvey or numerous other storms, but at least the EPA is putting their best foot forward and moving in the only direction that upholds their mission. All seven similar sites across the country have been removed- this can be done safely and we will remain engaged as a watchdog and advocate for our communities as this process moves forward.” said Young.