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Local Superfund sites await funding resolve

HIGHLANDS– CROSBY – The San Jacinto Waste Pit is one of four local Superfund sites that are being reviewed by the Trump Administration in regard to funding.

The recent flooding threats have called for extensive review of the safeguards of contaminants at the French Limited site, the Sikes Disposal Pits, the Highlands Acid Pits and now Patrick Bayou.

The 185-acre Sikes Disposal Pits was a place for dumping petroleum-based and other chemicals, then 22.5-acres was bought to make French Limited, a commercial waste disposal site that burned waste and deposited about 300,000 cubic yards in a lagoon. When Barrett Station and Crosby residents complained of the stench, the Texas Water Development Board required French Limited to apply for a waste-control permit. After three years of negotiations a permit was granted with provisions that the company never achieved. The permit was cancelled in 1971 and the company was sued for noncompliance and the state took the site.

The Sikes Disposal Pits and French Limited are now considered no longer threats to human health. The EPA determined that under normal conditions the “Constituents of Concern” A.K.A. poisons are contained within the lower permeability soils of the C1 clay and only traces remain away from the former lagoon.

During an August 2014 Public Hearing at Harris County Public Library Crosby Branch, the EPA announced their plans for the sier was to contain groundwater contaminant plumes in two shallow ground water zones. That ground water clean-up level for selected.

The Highlands Acid Pits are 3.3 acres on a peninsula within the San Jacinto River within the 10 year flood plain that was stuffed with sulfuric and hydrochloric acid. A fish kill in 1961 was blamed on these pits. The top 8 feet were excavated, backfilled and graded and fenced. The poison is still there but hidden. The EPA indicates that clean up is still on going, with monitoring. Nobody’s been around for years.

An inlet of the Houston Ship Channel, off of Highway 224 surrounded by facilities of Occidental Chemical Corp., Royal Ditch Shell and Lubrizol Corp., Patrick Bayou is about three miles long and made by the tides. Poison chemicals have been found there but no one has an idea about how much, who put it there or when. No action has been figured but we do know that in 2002 it joined the ranks of the Waste Pits as a Superfund site.

The question is, are these Superfund sites a danger under extreme conditions like floods?

The Trump administration isn’t believing in climate change, having bailed on plans from all 10 EPA regional offices that factored climate change risks into Superfund planning and remediation, according to officials from previous administrations. President Donald Trump rescinded the order in March 2017 that Barack Obama issued in 2012 to make climate change preparedness a national priority. The GAO found that the EPA’s current five-year strategic plan makes no reference to climate-related risks in relation to Superfund site management, planning or clean-ups.

Rather than cleaning up toxic waste at Superfund sites, the EPA began in the 1990s to cap the sites with soil, clay or even concrete, a less expensive method that leaves contaminants. Experts and former EPA officials argue that practice leaves sites vulnerable to flooding.

At the San Jacinto Waste Pits, a concrete cap that was installed in 2011 after a previous hurricane didn’t stop the site from flooding and leaking chemicals during Hurricane Harvey.

Recently, a number of new potential resolutions are proposed for the Waste Pits (rather than sucking the poison out and hauling it off) based on new EPA studies but these have been found to endanger releasing the most toxic aspects into Galveston Bay.