San Jacinto River waste site tabbed for cleanup

Relief is finally on the way from a decades-old Houston health hazard. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) recently announced it has removed the San Jacinto River Waste Pits from its "Emphasis" list of Superfund sites, thanks to a $115 million agreement to dredge toxic sludge from the site. The two companies responsible for the waste have agreed to foot the bill for the cleanup.

The toxic waste has lingered at the San Jacinto pits for decades, after wastewater from nearby plants was dumped into the water. "(The pits) contain about 200,000 cubic yards of highly contaminated waste," says Jackie Young, executive director of Texas Health and Environment Alliance. "We're talking about paper mill pulp waste that is laced with dioxin, PCPs and other heavy metals."

Young credits EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt for making this cleanup at the San Jacinto pits a reality. "Administrator Pruitt and the Superfund team have made incredible progress with our site in the last six to eight months, progress like we've never seen before," she says.

Other environmental groups agree. "This is a great step...getting the full remediation of this dangerous site was priority number one for us in the area," says Bay Scoggin, state director for Texas Public Interest Research Group (TexPIRG).

 Scoggin hopes this leads to similar action at other contaminated sites in the region. "Studies show that children who live within two miles of the Houston Ship Channel are 67% more likely for rare forms of cancer than those who live just five miles further out, so there's a lot more work to be done in the area, but this is a great start," says Scoggin.

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