HIGHLANDS – The monthly meeting of the San Jacinto River Coalition, and THEA, continue to be held as a virtual meeting on the internet, due to the Pandemic closing all of the available community centers.
Jackie Young Medcalf held the August meeting last Tuesday, and reviewed the significant material that had recently been released by the EPA. This is a series of reports, known as the 30% Remedial Design, numbering about 12 books and 30,000 or more pages.
Her review was from the viewpoint of how the toxic waste will be remediated, how it is characterized for disposal in a landfill, and how it will be safely disposed of and stored for perpetuity.
Jackie also reported that Gary Baumgarten of the Dallas EPA had made a presentation to the CAC, or Community Advisory Council via Zoom, to explain the details of the 30% Remedial Design.
One of the important revelations of the study, is that due to the toxic waste being deeper than originally assumed, much more material will have to be removed, and the project is now projected to take 7 years, instead of the original 2 to 3 years. The new quantity is calculated to be 210,000 cubic yards, 30% more than the original figure of 162,000 c.y.
Jackie reported that at the CAC meeting, they discussed various types of cofferdams that will be required to hold back the river and allow excavation of the toxic material. The also discussed that these will have to be very long, 70 to 100 feet, and most of that will be buried in the river bank. Installation of the cofferdam is expected to generate noise in the neighborhoods, and questions arise about whether the slopes will be destabilized, and will traffic on the I-10 highway be distracted by the noise and activity.
Baumgarten told the group that the material would be removed in trucks, not river barges, and over 10,000 truckloads would be required. Then the material would be transported to a licensed toxic waste landfill 100 miles away, perhaps near the Texas Louisiana border. Jackie questioned whether the material could be safely stored in perpetuity, and said that she didn’t want to move our problem to someone else.
Jackie also questioned not only the remediation details in the report, but the testing procedures and locations, and the acceptable levels of toxicity that will be left behind.
The RD said that the Sand Separation Area, adjacent to the North Impoundment, could be left unremediated to return to safe levels by “natural recovery, with monitoring.” Jackie said that tests of this area were not made in the right areas, and retests showed levels of toxicity at 3000 parts per trillion (ppt), 10 times the acceptable 300 ppt.
In the Northern Impoundment, the remediation level will be 30 ppt, but she said that some retests have shown a Dioxin known as TCDD to be as high as 96,000 ppt, and Furian as high as 200,000. She said these are not acceptable levels to be left behind.
The data is hard to analyze, she said, because there is so much. The Appendix C with lab reports is 21,000+ pages, and perhaps not complete at that. She pointed out a notation made by the consultant, GHD, that said some of the samples had been removed from the report, at the request of the PRP (Responsible Parties).
Jackie called for more transparency in the remediation reports and the process they represent, and perhaps the need for resampling and new criteria for allowable toxicity levels.
An example of less transparency is a “hot spot” in the Southern Impoundment that EPA does not plan to remediate, because it is outside their arbitrary site boundaries.