EPA set to take over Waste Pits remediation

County Commissioner Ramsey calls work “incompetent,” vows to push for Action

HIGHLANDS – County Commissioner Tom Ramsey joined THEA Executive Director Jackie Medcalf at a news conference last Thursday, to announce that the EPA (Environmental Protection Agency) had issued a warning letter to the PRP (Potential Responsible Parties) that their Remedial Plan for cleanup of the Northern Waste Pits site was “deficient” and gave them 20 days to provide corrective date. After that date the EPA said they were prepared to take legal action to assume the responsibility for the cleanup, at the PRP’s expense.

Ramsey, in a heated talk, said, “I’m done with waiting. I’m done. It’s not complicated. You have toxins in the river. Get rid of them.”

THEA’s Jackie Medcalf said the EPA has taken a big step that could result in the agency taking over the cleanup planning at the San Jacinto River Waste Pits Superfund Site.


This month, the EPA’s regional office sent a “Notification of Serious Deficiency” to International Paper Company and McGinnes Industrial Maintenance Corporation, the two companies that are legally responsible for cleaning up the decade sold Superfund site. This rarely used regulatory tool gives the companies 20 days to come up with a plan that meets the EPA’s requirements, or the government has the power to take over the planning process, order the cleanup and require the companies to pay the costs. This comes after the companies failed repeatedly to comply with the EPA’s request for a plan that would remove all of the contaminated material, including dioxin, from the Northern Pit of the site.


The EPA notified the responsible parties on January 5th that they had 20 days to address the agency’s concerns. At that point, the EPA has the power to develop its own cleanup plan, known as the Pre-Final (90%) Remedial Design, take over the cleanup and require the companies to pay all costs. If the EPA determines that the companies are not complying with its orders, it also has the power to require them to pay triple damages.


Statement from Commissioner Tom Ramsey, Harris County 3rd Precinct 3:

“I know as a registered Professional Engineer with over 40 years of experience, it should not take five years to develop a quality plan to remediate the site. This site has been impacting the area since the 1960’s and is a danger to the entire bay area region. Two thirds of the original volume has already washed away making any further delay unacceptable. It’s time to get this site cleaned up for good.”

Statement from Jackie Medcalf, Founder and CEO of Texas Health and Environment Alliance:

“This is an important decision that we hope will jumpstart the effort to protect public health and our environment. The community has been clear in saying the dioxin and other chemical waste need to be fully removed from our river. The EPA has been clear in ordering the companies to come up with a plan that accomplishes that. However, the planning process has dragged on for nearly five years and the companies still have not produced a plan that meets the EPA and community’s requirements. We fully support the EPA issuing this order.”

Texas Health and Environment Alliance (THEA) has led the fight to remove the health threat that the toxic waste site poses to the community and the Galveston Bay watershed.

Statement from Representative Dan Crenshaw (TX-02):

“The health and safety of the citizens across TX-02 is of utmost importance to me. Over the past year, I have been monitoring the situation at the San Jacinto River Waste Pits Superfund Site, as we move forward my office will continue to communicate with the EPA to ensure they are taking all appropriate steps to make certain the clean-up is done in a safe, effective, and timely manner.”

Statement from the PRP, Potential Responsible Parties:

“The two respondent companies for the San Jacinto Waste Pits Superfund Site – International Paper and McGinnes Industrial Maintenance Corp. (MIMC) – have informed EPA that while they believe some aspects of the characterizations made in Region 6’s recent notice to the companies are not accurate, they are committed to working cooperatively with the Agency to achieve progress at the site.”