Environmental protection agency Orders Cleanup at Texas Toxic Site Flooded by Harvey

The Trump administration handed an uncommon victory to environmentalists, ordering two big corporations now to pay for $115 million to wash up a Texas toxic waste site that could have spread harmful amounts of pollution during flooding from Hurricane Harvey.

Ecological Protection Agency Administrator Scott Pruitt signed a directive Wednesday requiring Worldwide Paper and McGinnis Industrial Maintenance Corp., a subsidiary of Waste Management Corporation., to excavate 212,000 cubic yards of contaminated sediments in the San Jacinto River Waste Pits site.

Pruitt visited the Superfund site outdoors Houston recently following historic rains and flooding in the storm, ending up in local ecological activists who’d campaigned for a long time for approval of the cleanup plan.

Cleaning Superfund sites a high priority

Pruitt has stated cleaning Superfund sites is one kind of his top priorities, even while he’s labored to obstruct and rollback several ecological rules that will reduce water and air pollution. Frequently Pruitt has been doing so directly in the behest of industries that petitioned him for respite from the things they characterize as excessively troublesome and pricey rules.

In the San Jacinto Pits, both companies opposed the costly cleanup, quarrelling that the fabric and stone cap since the 16-acre site was sufficient. The previous site of the destroyed paper mill that operated within the 1960s, the area in the center of the San Jacinto River is heavily contaminated with dioxins — chemicals associated with cancer and birth defects.

“International Paper professionally doesn’t agree using the decision through the Environmental protection agency,” stated Tom Ryan, a spokesman for Worldwide Paper. He stated taking out the existing protective cap “could lead to significant harm to public health insurance and the neighborhood atmosphere.”

‘Yellow journalism’

The Connected Press reported Sept. 2 concerning the risks from flooding at Houston-area Superfund sites, highlighting six prior occasions in which the cap in the San Jacinto Waste Pits needed significant repairs. Journalists surveyed seven flooded Superfund sites around Houston by boat, vehicle and by walking, including San Jacinto.

Environmental protection agency stated at that time it had been too unsafe because of its personnel to go to the websites, and accused the AP inside a statement of participating in “yellow journalism” and creating panic. Nearly 30 days later, however, the company confirmed that contaminated sediments at San Jacinto had, actually, been uncovered through the storm.

An example collected by a company dive team from your uncovered area to begin demonstrated dioxin levels at 70,000 nanograms per kilogram — greater than 2,300 occasions the amount set to trigger a cleanup. Dioxins don’t dissolve easily in water but could be transported away with any contaminated sediments and deposited more than a wider area.

Environmental protection agency stated two days ago that additional testing will be required to see whether the contamination spread and to make sure that the uncovered waste materials is isolated. Environmental protection agency didn’t react to demands for comment Thursday about whether that assessment was complete or what outcome was.

Galveston Bay an issue

The San Jacinto River empties into Galveston Bay, where condition medical officials have lengthy informed not to regularly consuming seafood because of contamination from dioxins and PCBs. The cleanup plan Environmental protection agency approved now requires the making of a brief dam to have to wait the forest while workers use heavy machinery to find out and take away enough contaminated soil and sentiment to fill greater than 16,000 dump truck loads.

Among the local ecological advocates who met with Pruitt throughout his visit recently, Jackie Youthful, stated people living across the river south from the waste pits still have no idea if the floodwaters transported toxins for their yards and houses.

“This is really a monumental victory and proof of how much of an engaged community can accomplish,” stated Youthful, executive director of Texas Health insurance and Atmosphere Alliance. “We may don’t know the level of harm from Hurricane Harvey or numerous other storms, but a minimum of the Environmental protection agency is putting their finest feet forward and relocating the only real direction that upholds their mission.”

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