State says San Jac River is a ‘National Priority’ for clean-up

HIGHLANDS— A pool of poisonous industrial waste that has been polluting the San Jacinto River for decades has moved another step closer to elimination now that Texas has officially approved the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) decision to consider it as a candidate site for the federal National Priorities List (NPL).
“The health of East Harris County residents has been harmed too long by these poisonous wastes,” U.S. Rep. Gene Green said. “This is a major step forward for the San Jacinto River and its surrounding areas all the way down to the Bay.”
In a July 26 letter to the EPA’s regional administrator, Texas Governor Rick Perry expressed the state’s support for the EPA’s plan to add the polluted area to the NPL. Texas’ approval was necessary before the EPA could proceed with the cleanup process. The EPA created the NPL to designate which sites most urgently need to be cleaned.
In September the EPA will publish information about proposed cleanup sites in the Federal Register, accept public comments, and attempt to identify parties responsible for the pollution. Then, the EPA will name sites from around the country to the NPL. The San Jacinto River’s waste pits will most likely be included on the list given Texas’ cooperation.
Green originally became concerned about contamination in the San Jacinto River when he learned that an industrial waste pit used in the 1960s and 1970s was contaminating fish that residents were catching and eating.
Pollution levels had been high in the San Jacinto River for many years, but scientists didn’t know why until 2005 when they discovered the pit, which is located near the Interstate 10 bridge.
According to a February 2007 EPA report, the pit is releasing dangerous levels of polychlorinated dibenzo-p-dioxins, commonly called dioxins, and polychlorinated dibenzofurans, commonly called furans, into the river.
In March, Green asked the EPA to add the site to the national Superfund list, which would provide federal money to help clean up the pollution if the parties responsible for the pollution weren’t found.