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EPA to hold Waste Pits meeting Dec. 5th; work starts on Southern Impoundment

HIGHLANDS –

The cleanup is starting at the San Jacinto River Waste Pits Superfund Site according to THEA director Jackie Medcalf, and an announcement from the EPA in Dallas. Initially the work will involve the Southern Impoundment site, not the Northern Impoundment.

In addition to the announcement, EPA is planning a Community Town Hall Meeting on December 5. According to Jackie Medcalf, here is what we know about the plan:

Phase One of the cleanup started this week. This includes removing vegetation from the site, building fences, and building a water treatment facility on location.

Physical removal of the waste will start in late December or early January. About 25-30 trucks will haul the toxic waste away to disposal facilities.

This phase will take place in two parts. Crews will use the lower part of the southern pit for the water treatment operations and as a staging area while they remove the waste from the upper area. Once the upper area is restored, they will move the water treatment facility and staging area to that part and start work on the lower section.

The EPA says this phase will take two years. The plan to clean up the northern pit is still contentious, but the good news is that the EPA has finally put its foot down and informed the responsible parties, International Paper Company and Waste Management’s subsidiary, McGinnes Industrial Maintenance Corporation, that it won’t allow any more delays in producing a cleanup plan.

If you have questions or concerns, contact THEA or EPA representative Lauren Poulos at 214-665- 8371 or Poulos.lauren@Epa.gov.

The EPA issued the following statement regarding the start of the Clean-up and Remediation work:

DALLAS — (Nov. 14th, 2022) — Construction for the final remedy has begun for part of the San Jacinto River Waste Pits Superfund site in Harris County, Texas, just east of Houston. The work involves excavation and offsite disposal of dioxin-containing wastes from the portion of the site known as the Southern Impoundment, an area of about 20 acres on a small peninsula extending just Continued. See Waste Pits work starts, Page 3 south of Interstate 10.

“The San Jacinto River Waste Pits has proven to be one of the most complex Superfund sites in the nation, with the Highlands and Channelview areas living with the burden of dioxin contamination for too long,” said Regional Administrator Dr. Earthea Nance. “By starting construction on the remedy for the Southern Impoundment, we are taking the first steps to ensuring these wastes are no longer a threat to the surrounding communities.”

The overall site consists of two large pits, or impoundments, built into the banks of the San Jacinto River in the mid-1960s for disposal of pulp wastes containing dioxin from nearby paper-manufacturing facilities. The site was added to the National Priorities List in 2008. EPA issued an order for the site investigation in 2009 to International Paper and McGinnes Industrial Maintenance Corporation, the responsible companies. In 2017, EPA issued a Record of Decision for the site that included removal of waste from the impoundments and off-site disposal.

EPA issued a Unilateral Administrative Order to International Paper in 2021 to address the contamination in the Southern Impoundment. IP contractors will conduct the work under EPA oversight. The first few weeks of work will include personnel and equipment mobilization and site prep prior to the start of excavation. The work is expected to take two years to complete.

Members of the public are reminded to follow posted warning signs and stay out of the fenced areas of the site. A fish consumption advisory remains in place for the San Jacinto River.