From THEA/San Jacinto River Coalition:
On June 23rd the EPA hosted its first in-person community meeting for the San Jacinto River Waste Pits since 2019. The agency provided an overview of the work that’s been done in the last few years and details of the process moving forward. The community also had the opportunity to meet new EPA team members who have joined the remedial effort as it has become one of the most technically complex cleanups the agency is tasked with.
During Hurricane Harvey, severe scour on the eastern side of the Northern Pit left it at risk of destabilizing. Yet the material to repair it was delayed by weeks due to fog-congested waterways on the Mississippi River.
When the EPA Administrator informed THEA about this, our Executive Director responded, “It is absolutely absurd that our river and Galveston Bay are at risk for catastrophic dioxin exposure because the EPA hasn’t required local storage of emergency materials.”
Since then, the San Jacinto River Coalition has continued pressing the EPA to require material be kept nearby for emergency repairs. And they now have local sources for emergency repair materials in the event that the cap is damaged again.
As you probably know, these wars are won one battle at a time, and just as we win one, another fuse ignites. At the meeting, we were informed that the Southern Waste Pit, which is set to begin construction this fall, is only going to be cleaned up to a depth of 10 feet below the ground surface. This will inevitably leave dioxin waste underground.
Community members pressed the EPA for answers as this new concept was presented. We have all observed storm surges and flood waters attempt to cut new channels in this area and although the waste at the Southern Pit is buried in a peninsula, can we really accurately predict what the land will look like in 750 years? No, not within reason. Therefore we must ensure this is truly the best course for cleanup.
Southern Waste Pit: Our team will begin a thorough technical review on how this change of course took place and what information was relied on to support such a decision.
Northern Waste Pit: The 90% Remedial Design (RD) was received by the EPA on June 27th. The agency and its technical support (which consist of a variety of government agencies from the local to federal level along with private contractors) will take at least 60 days to review the report. They are releasing the report publicly and THEA’s technical team will dive into all of the details while the EPA does its review.
The 90% Remedial Design (RD) document for the Northern Impoundment for the San Jacinto River Waste Pits was submitted as required to EPA Region 6 on June 27.
The document outlines and details the wide range of investigation, engineering studies and analyses underlying design approaches rigorously reviewed for remediation of the waste pits within the Northern Impoundment.
The report reflects broad input from a Technical Working Group consisting of representatives from the EPA, Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ), the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE), the Responsible Parties’ consulting engineering firm and other technical subject-matter experts. A total of 25 meetings of this group took place – dating back to April 2018 and continuing through April 2022 – to provide expertise in the development and evaluation of the document.
The objective of the 90% RD is to present a summary of the design plans for the Northern Impoundment. The exception is the portion of the site commonly referred to as the Northwest Corner. The companies and the EPA will need additional discussion to develop a framework and deliverable schedule for the Northwest Corner component. The companies believe this can be done without adversely impacting the overall RD schedule.
When the Agency’s original Record of Decision (ROD) was issued, only eight subsurface borings had been installed in the Northern Impoundment. As part of investigative activities since that decision, an additional 71 subsurface borings were installed. The vertical impact of material extends much deeper than initially determined; therefore, the corresponding volume of waste has increased.
Based on evaluations made, it was determined that there are several areas across the Northern Impoundment in which there would be significant risk of what’s known as “hydraulic heave” if material were to be removed to the currently estimated elevations of impact.
In addition, the document identifies and explains a number of technical issues, uncertainties and additional information related to the RD and the selected remedy.
The complete document can be found at: https://semspub.epa.gov/work/06/100027142.pdf
An array of associated geotechnical information, testing results, modeling, design drawings, specifications and supplemental plans are included with the report.