SJR Coalition says EPA too slow to remediate Waste Pits Expert releases new report, says removal necessary

Dr. Kathleen Garland

HOUSTON – Jackie Young and the San Jacinto River Coalition held a press conference on Tuesday morning, at the main public library in downtown Houston.

The purpose of the conference was to present the findings from a new report, written by Dr. Kathleen Garland, a geologist and environmental management expert with the University of Houston Clear Lake.

Dr. Garland’s report compares the San Jacinto River Waste Pits (SJRWP) with seven other similar Superfund Sites around the country. The report highlights that larger sites in more complex settings have been fully remediated in order to meet EPA guidelines.

In this comparison, she says that the proposal to contain the waste pits and leave them in the river, made by the Potentially Responsible Parties, (Waste Management, McGinnis Industrial, and International Paper), does not meet previous EPA policies and past practices. She says that the containment cap in place, was allowed by the EPA as an emergency measure and not a permanent solution.

Her study concludes that by following other examples of EPA remedies, “…selection for dioxin-contaminated sediments included physical removel of the most highly contaminated sediments unless such removal would cause channel or bank instability…”

She states that “such a removal appears to be feasible at the SJRWP site…” Therefore, “no other options exist to reduce the toxicity of these contaminants of concern.”

In presenting the findings and introducing Dr. Garland, activist Jackie Young said that “Four Decades of Pollution is Long Enough.”

Dr. Garland is the second local expert to make a firm argument for removal of the toxins in the river. 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, and subject to the effects of the toxins. He was especially concerned about the release of contaminated sediment after storms and hurricanes.