HARRIS COUNTY – After realignment of Precinct Boundaries this year, the East side of the county found Highlands split in two, with Pct. 3 on the west side of Main Street, and Pct. 2 on the east side. As a result, the area got a new Commissioner, Tom Ramsey. He is now in charge of roads and bridges, drainage, parks, community centers, and work camps that once belong to Pct. 2 and Commissioner Adrian Garcia. In this opinion piece written for his Notes column, Ramsey opines about the San Jacinto Waste Pits and his take on the problem they present. Ramsey writes:
“In the 1960’s a paper manufacturer dumped their waste into pits near the San Jacinto River. The waste was filled with harmful chemicals including the carcinogen called Dioxin. As the course of the river changed, the pits became submerged. In 2011, the EPA recognized the superfund site, and is now known as the as the San Jacinto River Waste Pits.
Throughout my many years as a professional engineer, these waste pits have been festering, polluting, and killing innocent people and animals around it. We have waited long enough. This week at Court I directed our Pollution Control Director to work with the EPA to expedite the removal of the toxins. Jackie Medcalf, who has been the most ardent supporter of the cleanup effort, told her story at Court as well.
Jackie developed serious health conditions including cancer from drinking well water contaminated by the waste pits. Members of her family lost their lives to the dioxins leaking from the pit. She is the voice for thousands who have shared the same experience.
Sadly, two weeks ago the responsible parties tried to delay the cleanup, offering to cap or contain the site instead. Containment doesn’t work in a body of water as big or fast-moving as the San Jacinto River.
The river is also used by ships and barges, one of these barges barely missed the waste pits in 2019 as it careened into the I-10 bridge. During Harvey, the current cap was damaged resulting in the release of tremendous number of dioxins into the main freshwater source for Galveston Bay. We must clean up, not contain this hazard. It’s only a matter of time until the worst environmental crisis in the County’s history occurs.”