WASTE PITS UPDATE: Harris County plans to test 40 area wells

HIGHLANDS – The Harris County Pollutions Control Services is currently advertising for a contractor to test 40 wells in the Highlands and Channelview areas, near the San Jacinto River Waste Pits.

Bids are due Feb. 15th at the county. This opening date has been postponed twice. According to bid documents, all 40 wells must be within 3 miles of the Waste Pits site, and will be tested for standard drinking water analysis, as well as analysis for dioxin/furan, volatile organic compounds, semi volatile compounds, pesticides and selected metals.

The approved contractor is forbidden by the agreement to disclose the results of the tests, verbally or written, to “outside individuals or entities.” The locations of the wells to be tested will be determined by HCPCS.

Jackie Young of the San Jacinto River Coalition reports that the tear in the membrane over the Waste Pits has been repaired by the PRP, or Potential Responsible Parties. A new membrane and overburden of crushed concrete has closed the 25 x 20 foot hold that was discovered in December by divers employed by the EPA.

Two meetings regarding the Waste Pits have been scheduled this month. On February 8th the San Jacinto River Coalition will join with the Galveston Bay Foundation to hold a meeting at the Highlands Community Center, at 6:30 p.m. The meeting is in conjunction with the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department. The purpose of the meeting is to update and educate the community about the ongoing process to select projects for the $10 million dollars in settlement funds that the State of Texas received from the Waste Pits litigation.

SJRC suggests that possible uses for the money would be a renewed infrstructure for Highlands water distribution, or a new community boat ramp, or projects to restore the marshland and habitats endangered or destroyed by the Waste Pits.

In additon to the state money, Harris County Precinct 2 has pledged to use their $10 million in the area for community benefit projects.

Additional Meeting

A second meeting on the Waste Pits has been scheduled by the EPA, in cooperation with the TCEQ, to hold a Superfund Open House meeting on Wednesday, February 17 from 6:30 to 8:00 p.m. at the Flukinger Community Center on Lorenzo Street in Channelview. On hand will be federal, state, county and local officials to partipate in the meeting.

This informal meeting is to update the community on the EPA’s remediation process, ongoing studies and recent events at the site located on the west bank of the San Jacinto River directly north of the I-10 Bridge. Agency officials will also update the residents on upcoming activites, the site schedule and what to expect next.

Current Status

In conjunction with the meeting, the EPA issued the following statement:

“The U. S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) in cooperation with state, county and local agencies is continuing to assess current and future site conditions to develop a comprehensive plan for site cleanup.

As part of the EPA’s oversight responsibility, and to verify the condition of the cap, EPA divers completed an underwater inspection of the armored cap on December 10, 2015. The inspection found an area on the northwest part of the cap where the armor cap was deficient. This underwater area does not have a geotextile liner under the rock, and a gap in the armor cap resulted. The EPA directed both International Paper and Insudtrial Maintenance Corporation, the potentially responsbile parties (PRPs) for the San Jacinto River Waste Pits Superfund site in Harris County, to submit a repair plan for the protective cap.The EPA prescribed that the repair plan should include confirmation sampling to assure the EPA that no materials have been released from the site.

Following EPA approval of the PRP delineation and sampling plan, the PRPs completed work to mark out the length and width of the deficient area, as well as collect sediment samples. The deficient area was irregularly shaped approximately 20-feet by 25-feet in size located under water from 8-inches to 18-inches deep.

A total of seven shallow sediment samples were collected inside and outside of the deficient area. The samples inside the deficient area contained rocks as well as sediment and shells. The samples are being analyzed for dioxin/furan congeners with results due in February 2016. In addition, three split samples were collected by EPA’s contractor and will be analyzed by an independent laboratory. Oversight of this work was provided by EPA staff and contractor. Harris County staff also viewed a portion of the work in progress.

Following the EPA’s approval of the repair plan, the PRPs completed the work to lay a geotextile fabric over the deficient area and cover it with a 1-foot minimum thickness layer of armor rock with an 8-inch median diamter. Manual probing was done to confirm that the minimum rock thickness was achieved, and additiona rock was added where needed. Oversight of this work was provided by EPA staff and contractor. Following completion of the work, the PRPs performed underwater survey of the repaired area.