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Update on San Jacinto River Waste Pits: EPA says deeper toxic waste means more time & money

This illustration of a typical cofferdam and dewatering process, furnished by the EPA, may be the type called for in the Design Package.

By Jennah Durant, EPA Press Office

Here is more information on recent SJR waste pits questions:

1. Have you received the 30% Design package for the South impoundment?

Yes. The 30% design package for the south impoundment was submitted to EPA on April 13, 2020.

2. Have you received the 30% Design package for the North impoundment?

Yes. The 30% design package for the north impoundment was submitted to EPA on May 28, 2020.

3. Will these documents be available to the public? When?

The documents are currently under review by the regulatory agencies. Following EPA’s review of the document and determination that the design is appropriate based on the remedy selected in the Record of Decision, EPA will make the document available to the public.

4. Regardless of whether the reports are public, could you furnish me with an executive summary or your own summation of what they say? 

• The pre-design investigations have refined the volume of waste to be removed in the north and south impoundment;

• Waste in some areas of the northern impoundment are deeper than presented in the Record of Decision;

• Excavation of waste will occur during periods of the year that are not prone to flooding and hurricanes

• The waste will be excavated in cells. The size and number of cells will be based on the volume of waste that can be removed during periods of the year that are not subject to flooding or hurricanes.

5. Is there a new timeline or schedule for remediation, due to the fact that the material in the pits may be deeper than originally expected?

Jackie Young said that the toxic waste may go down as far as 25′. The remedial design documents have been submitted by the due dates outlined in the remedial design legal order.

Concurrent with the remedial design work, EPA along with the Department of Justice are working on a settlement agreement with the responsible parties. This settlement agreement will detail how the final remedial design packages will be implemented.

Cleanup of the northern impoundment will take longer than presented in the Record of Decision. The cleanup will take longer because the volume of waste has increased, and excavation of the waste will done in cells during periods of the year that are not subject to flooding or hurricanes. A preliminary cleanup schedule is presented in the 30% design package. The schedule will be updated and refined as part of the pre-final design.

6. Will there be a public meeting in the local area before the end of the year to update the community on progress? What would be an approximate date? Also, please feel free to make a report to the public through our publications; we still reach 12,500 every week on both sides of the river.

It is unknown if there will be a public meeting in the local area before the end of the year due to COVID-19. As regional travel restrictions are lifted EPA will begin looking into safe and effective ways to interact with local community members, whether in person or virtually.

7. The PRP have removed their website, keepitcapped.org, from the internet. Is this a sign they are being more cooperative toward remediation?

EPA does not know why the website “keepitcapped.org” has been removed from the internet.

Jennah Durant
US EPA Region 6 Press Office
214-676-0655