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HIGHLANDS: SJR Coalition hears about Liberty Disposal site

Rodrigo Cantu

By Jarret Murray

HIGHLANDS – Members of the San Jacinto River Coalition met at 6:30 p.m. on Tuesday, December 2nd at the San Jacinto Community Center to discuss findings regarding the Superfund Site in the San Jacinto River, and the Liberty Waste Disposal site in Highlands.

The meeting was led by the executive director for Texas Health and Environment Alliance, Jackie Young. she reported that there was no new information on the status of the Superfund site work.

This was followed by a presentation on the known history of the Liberty Waste site, as well as test results and an analysis, given by Rodrigo Cantu of Lone Star Legal Aid.

The Liberty Waste site consists of a 37 acre landfill at the end of Steele Road in Highlands. 9 acres of the site are a pond, and the remaining land is covered with a 4’ deep clay cap. The landfill was actively used from 1973 to 1983 and then closed and capped. Although toxic, TCEQ said that it did not meet the criteria for a Superfund designation.

TCEQ reported that in 2001 some leaks were detected coming from the site.

The Liberty Waste pit site is 37 acres located at the end of Steele Road and the end of Ellis School Road in Highlands. The site is partially wooded, but also has a 9 acre pit lake. In spite of its designation as a toxic site by TCEQ, it is used for recreation and fishing. It is located near a fresh water canal, the Baytown water facility, and several residential areas.

Cantu reported that the TCEQ had visited the Liberty site in March 2019, to inspect conditions. This followed an inquiry by Lone Star as to the status of the site. The site is now covered with grass, shrubs, and walking trails. There is fishing in the pit lake, and horseback riding on the site. There are 18 to 20 monitoring wells. No recent leaks have been reported, but no testing has been done since 2001.

Jackie Young of THEA made awards to five supporters of the groups environmental efforts. Awards known as the “Archie Bickley” awards were given at the end of the presentation to five individuals who have made a large impact for the San Jacinto River Coalition. Young presented the awards to Gary Miller of the EPA, Gilbert Hoffman of the Star-Courier, Christopher James of the Baytown Sun, Pamela Bonta, and Greg Moss. Recipients of the award reminisced over Archie as well as the accomplishments of the coalition so far.

In a related event, Lois Gibbs a nationally recognized environmentalist known for her work on Love Canal in Niagra Falls, New York, held a workshop in Baytown. She was focusing on legislation that would define what type of facilities could be close to pollution sources. The event was last Saturday Dec.7th at Baytown Sterling Library. Gibbs is a friend of Jackie Young of THEA and worked with her on environmental issues.