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Posts tagged as “San Jacinto River”

LyondellBasell Agrees to Reduce Harmful Air Pollution

LyondellBasell Plant in Channelview, with the San Jacinto River and Highlands in the distance.

Channelview plant cited for excessive flaring
HARRIS COUNTY – Three U.S. subsidiaries of Dutch chemical giant LyondellBasell Industries N.V. (Lyondell) have agreed to make upgrades and perform compliance measures estimated to cost $50 million to resolve allegations they violated the Clean Air Act and state air pollution control laws at six petrochemical manufacturing facilities located in Channelview, Corpus Christi, and LaPorte, Texas, and Clinton, Iowa. Lyondell will also pay a $3.4 million civil penalty. The settlement, announced today by the Department of Justice and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), will eliminate thousands of tons of air pollution from flares.

According to the complaint, the companies failed to properly operate and monitor their industrial flares, which resulted in excess emissions of harmful air pollution at five facilities in Texas and one in Iowa. Lyondell’s subsidiaries regularly “oversteamed” the flares at their facilities and failed to comply with other key operating constraints to ensure the volatile organic compounds (VOCs) and hazardous air pollutants contained in the gases routed to the flares are effectively combusted.

The EPA identified potential environmental justice concerns at the two Channelview facilities for exposure to particulate matter (2.5 micron), ozone, toxic cancer risk, and respiratory hazard. The significant emissions reductions of VOCs, HAPs, and greenhouse gases that today’s settlement secures at the Channelview facilities serve to reduce exposure in the community to some of the same air pollutants that they are disproportionately exposed to.

“The Justice Department and EPA will continue to enforce the law against petrochemical plants that violate the Clean Air Act,” said Assistant Attorney General Todd Kim of the Justice Department’s Environment and Natural Resources Division. “In particular, we are committed to reducing harmful air pollution from unnecessary and improper flaring, especially near overburdened communities with environmental justice concerns.”

EPA says remedial work can commence on Waste Pits southern empoundment

The Southern Impoundment area will start logistical work this year, and actual remediation construction will take place in 2022, according to the Environmental Protection Agency

Waste Pits take a major step forward in Superfund process

By Jackie Medcalf

On September 2nd, the EPA finalized the Unilateral Administrative Order (UAO) for the clean-up of the San Jacinto River Waste Pits Superfund Site’s southern impoundment.

This is a major step towards physically addressing the contamination south of Interstate 10.

The order allows the clean-up to move into the Remedial Action phase of the superfund process, which begins with creating work plans, procuring materials, and securing contractors. These steps are anticipated to take place over the next year, setting the groundwork for construction to start in the fall of 2022.

GLO removing sunken barges from San Jacinto River

Workers clean mud off barge that has been raised from underwater.

By Carolyn Stone and Gilbert Hoffman

SAN JACINTO RIVER – Residents of the San Jacinto River Estates area along River Road, were surprised early in July to see excavation work barges lifting old sunken hulks of barges from the water along the waterfront.

This area is near the Superfund site, and also the area next to Riverside Inn where the Holtmar/TimTom company has been trying to install new barge mooring facilities.

Residents were concerned the cleanup was in preparation for the installation of the barge facility and the possible approval of the 03/04/21 Holtmar Letter of Permission from the Corps of Engineers.

However, closer inspection of the vessels and personnel performing the cleanup revealed they were from the TX GLO, or Texas General Land Office.

Residents say they are still concerned it may be related. Removal of the sunken vessels and other debris in the river would be a necessary step prior to construction of a barge facility in that area. Carolyn Stone reached out to Ana Hernandez’s office to hear if they had any information on why the GLO was in the proposed area for the barge facility removing the sunken vessels.

Several work barges, with cranes and other excavation equipment, are anchored along the bank near the San Jacinto River Estates neighborhood. They are removing sunken barges and other debris that impede the flow of the river and pose a hazard during flood conditions. Beyond the work barges can be seen the Riverside Inn, to the far left Meadowbrook Park, and to the far right the area for a proposed barge mooring facility. Work on that project has halted due to a question about whether it was properly permitted by the Corps of Engineers. (All photos courtesy of Greg Moss)

WASTE PITS VIRTUAL MEETING: EPA sees longer, difficult remediation work

SINGLE WALL COFFERDAM, TOP, WON’T WORK. DOUBLE WALL BELOW IS NEW DESIGN.

EPA holds virtual meeting to update community on San Jacinto River Waste Pits

EPA CONFIRMS LONGER TIME SCHEDULE, SLOWER WORK FOR SJRWP REMEDIATION

HIGHLANDS — The EPA (Environmental Protection Agency) held a virtual meeting last Thursday night, June 10, to update the communities around the San Jacinto River on progress to remediate the Waste Pits. This is the first meeting to interface with the public since 2019, due to safety concerns with the Pandemic that limited the travel for the EPA. However, they did meet in person in April with the CAC, or Community Advisory Committee. For those unable to join the meeting by internet, two in-person viewing sites were set up by THEA, at the Highlands Community Center and the Channelview Fire Department.

EPA brought news that the original designs for excavation and dewatering would not work, and more investigation and planning was required. EPA had discovered that the toxic material existed much deeper than original sampling had indicated, not 12′ but in some cases 35′. This meant much more material would have to be removed. The deeper excavation also meant that a double wall cofferdam would be required to safely excavate, and treating of ground water would have to be done “in the dry” by dewatering, not as originally proposed. All of this meant the project would require additional time, work, and money.

Flood funds need matches for mitigation

By Lewis Spearman

EAST HARRIS COUNTY – Problems matching money set aside to mitigate flooding locally are allowing flood conditions to threaten the Greater Houston Area.

Remember all those floods from the Memorial Day Flood to Hurricane Harvey? Citizens of Harris County passed a $2.5 billion dollar matching funds bond to deal with making an infrastructure to reduce the risk of floods.

The $2.5 billion bond passed in 2018, and Harris County Flood Control District (HCFCD) planned for state and federal agencies to match the bond amount. But the HCFCD explained that the Texas General Land Office changed how it allocated funds from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. Houston and Harris County are now competing with the rest of Texas for Hurricane Harvey relief. The 2015 Memorial Day and 2016 Tax Day floods did not receive grants, according to the HCFCD.

Waste Pits delayed another 270 days

Jackie Medcalf, THEA president, protests at the Waste Management offices in downtown Houston on April 15.

Remediation work may not start until 2024

NO TIME TO WASTE: A Call for Inclusivity and Transparency in the San Jacinto River Waste Pits Superfund Process.

HOUSTON – Jackie Young Medcalf, president of the Texas Health & Environment Alliance (THEA) recently learned that the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) authorized a 270-day extension to the design phase of the San Jacinto River Waste Pits Superfund process at the request of the responsible parties (International Paper and Waste Management subsidiary, McGinnis Industrial Maintenance Corporation). This extension is on the heels of a 160-day extension authorized by the EPA in September of 2020.

Medcalf feels that the EPA needs to be more transparent and inclusive in these types of decisions. She feels the first extension allowed time for more testing and sampling, but thinks the new extension will just be an unnecessary delay and have the potential problem of moving remediation work back several years and conflict with a new I-10 bridge that TxDOT plans to build over the San Jacinto River.

Channelview concerned about dredging for more barges near Superfund Waste Pits

Construction activity along River Road includes piles about to be driven into the water to support a new set of berths for barges. Dredging of 15,000 cubic yards of waste material will take place in the same area and be sent to a new landfill in Devers.

CHANNELVIEW – According to the C.H.I.C. community action group, residents in the San Jacinto River Estates area along the San Jacinto River near the Waste Pits received a notice letter last week from the Corps of Engineers, calling attention to a dredging and mooring project in the river near Meadowbrook Park and asking for comments within 15 days.

This is apparently a continuation of a project that was attempted last year, by the landowners TimTom Holdings and Holtmar Land LLC. In that project, excavated materials from the south side of I-10 were to be hauled to Beach City, and deposited in a landfill site near a park and residential area. Complaints by citizens and the city government managed to stop that work.

Carolyn Stone of C.H.I.C. says she believes that this project is using an old permit, with a different description of the work. She believes they would need a new permit for this, which is a different project.

Waste Pits update by Zoom meeting

MAP above of Southern Impoundment, shows excavation of toxic waste from 4’ deep (green) to 10’ deep (red).

Waste Pits remediation schedule extended, disposal and classification of waste questioned

By Gilbert Hoffman

The San Jacinto River Coalition, and THEA have learned that the time line for remediation and removal of the Waste Pits in the river will take considerably more time than originally thought, due to a number of factors.

Pre-Design Investigation, or PDI, discovered that the depth of the waste to be removed was much greater than the original 12 feet. In some places in the Northern Impoundment it was as deep as 25 feet. The significance of this meant that more material would have to be removed, and more water infiltrating from the river would have to be treated. The original time line had been to complete the project in 2 and one-half years, and now it looks like the schedule will be seven years. The Final Design plan called for one year of preparation to procure contractors and materials, 5 years to remove the waste material (the site would be divided into five zones, each separated from the others, and taking a year to remediate) and a year to mobilize.

However, in September THEA learned that the EPA had granted the PRP consultant’s request for additional time for engineering, due to the increased scope and depth of the waste. EPA allowed them to take an additional 160 days to prepare their Final Design plan.

Concerns raised about new Construction near Waste Pits

Construction activity along River Road includes piles about to be driven into the water to support a new set of berths for barges. To the left is Meadowbrook Park, and to the right the old Riverside Inn.

CHANNELVIEW – Residents of the area near the San Jacinto River Waste Pits Superfund Site have become concerned with evidence of new construction that might threaten the neighborhood along River Road, and the waste pits themselves.

The investigation is being headed by Carolyn Stone, who lives in Channelview not far from I-10 and the Waste Pits, and is the director of an environmental action group know as C.H.I.P., or Channelview Health & Improvement Coalition. The group is monitoring progress at the Waste Pits, as well as water and air quality in the Channelview area.

Stone says in a letter widely distributed to government bodies and other interested persons, that the construction that can be observed along river road and on the east bank of the river is proceeding without any evidence of permits from the County engineering Department or the Corps of Engineers, each of which has jurisdiction of this type.

Stone says that she learned that a company known as TimTom Land Holdings LLC is building the barge facility, and plans a restaurant/bar adjacent. She says in her letter, “These two projects lay in a very vulnerable and low land area which is the first area to flood.”

New pipeline crosses River, Neighborhoods

Exxon Pipeline Company exacting the line through the neighborhood that connects the Baytown plant to Pasadena and Webster.The pipelines are done using the horizontal directional drill technique, an advanced method for pipeline and utility installations.

LYNCHBURG – ExxonMobil Pipeline Company will install pipelines underneath the San Jacinto River, one at the Houston Ship Channel between here and Baytown, the other north to the IH-10 bridge using a technique called Horizontal Directional Drilling.

Some of this work will include activity on Alexander Island, an uninhabited island within the channel. This project is a part of a $500 million energy infrastructure investment in East Harris County.

According to a press release from ExxonMobil Pipeline Company, “Throughout all phases of planning and installation, work will be conducted with an unwavering commitment to the safety of the community, the environment and our team members. We are proud of the highly skilled team we have assembled for this project, and we encourage you to follow our progress as the project advances at: http://webster.exxonmobilpipeline.com/, where you can ask us a question about our work and hear directly from some of our team members about how they keep safety first.