Advocacy

San Jacinto River Waste Pits Superfund Site

Proposed Plan Schedule Announcement from EPA – posted July 30, 2014
GBF/HARC comments on the draft Feasibility Study and our recommendation for site cleanup

Overview
The Superfund Cleanup
Independent Review
Findings
Jan. 24 Mtg. Summary
FAQs
What Else is Being Done?
Get on Our Mailing List
For More Information

Overview
The Galveston Bay Foundation wants you to be informed about the cleanup of the San Jacinto River Waste Pits Superfund Site (SJRWP). The pits are located on the west bank of the San Jacinto River immediately upstream of the I-10 Bridge in Harris County. An additional pit, currently under investigation, is located south of I-10.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency is overseeing the cleanup of the pits, which received wastes from the Champion Paper mill in the 1960s. These wastes contain dioxins, which are toxic and can cause increased risk of cancer and other threats to human health such as liver damage and birth defects.

The abandoned pits, like the rest of the surrounding area subsided (sinking of land as the result of groundwater pumping) and the dioxin-laden wastes were exposed to the waters of the San Jacinto River. Rather than dissolving in water, dioxins tend to bind to soil and sediments. From there, they are ingested by small animals feeding in the sediments, and through the process of bioaccumulation, can concentrate in fish, shellfish and crabs.

If humans have been exposed to dioxins from this site, it is very likely to be through eating contaminated seafood. In fact, dioxins have been found in certain fish and crabs at concentrations which have prompted the state health department to issue seafood consumptions advisories in Galveston Bay and its tidal tributaries, such as the San Jacinto River. People could also be exposed to dioxins from these pits through accidental ingestion or dermal absorption (absorption through the skin) of contaminated sediments.

Given the chemical nature of dioxins and nature of the SJRWP, people are not expected to be exposed to contaminants from airborne dust, groundwater, or surface water. For more information on the routes of exposure to SJRWP dioxins, see the Public Health Assessment - Final Version that was prepared by the Texas Department of State Health Services.

The Superfund Cleanup
The cleanup is being implemented by U.S. EPA and the Potentially Responsible Parties (PRPs): McGinnis Industrial Maintenance Corporation and International Paper Company. Here are the highlights of the investigation and cleanup actions have been completed to date or are underway:

Activity

Description

Start Date

Completion
Date

Discovery of the Site

Texas Parks and Wildlife Department became aware of information suggesting the presence of waste pits in and adjacent to the San Jacinto River and notified the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality.

April 2005

Placement on National Priorities List

The U.S. EPA’s listing of the site on the NPL made it a “Superfund” site, eligible for further investigation and action.

March 2008

 

Time Critical Removal Action

A short-term stabilization/capping of the waste pits by the responsible parties. In this case, an armored cap was placed over the waste pits to temporarily address the release of dioxin into the San Jacinto River. The final method of cleaning up the site will not be chosen until the end of 2013, but this cap was designed to stop the release of additional contaminants into the river while the site was being investigated and the final method of cleanup chosen and implemented.

April 2010

July 2011

Remedial Investigation / Feasibility Study

The process of data collection and analyses of the site problem, identification of cleanup alternatives, and the recommendation of a clean-up remedy by the responsible parties. NOTE: The latest information from the EPA indicates that you will have the opportunity to provide public comment on the Proposed Plan for cleanup of the SJRWP site in the September 2014 timeframe.  We will provide firm dates when they become available.

December 2009

Sept. 2014 (estimated)

A detailed schedule of the Remedial Investigation/Feasibility Study activities can be found by clicking here.
A list of all cleanup activities can be found by clicking here.

More information can be found at the following websites:

Our Independent Review of the Cleanup
The Galveston Bay Foundation received a grant from the U.S. EPA to hire scientists from the Houston Advanced Research Center (HARC) to serve as the independent technical advisors and review site cleanup process reports, provide expert input, and communicate their findings to the public. These findings will be posted on this webpage and communicated to the public via meetings, electronic communications and print pieces.

Technical Advisor's Reviews of Key Document Produced for the U.S. EPA Cleanup Process:

January 24, 2013 GBF/HARC Public Meeting Summary

Frequently Asked Questions*
*Answers provided by Houston Advanced Research Center and Galveston Bay Foundation. Note that U.S. EPA also provides their own helpful site-specific FAQs and broader, but related watershed FAQs.

What Else is Being Done about Dioxin?
Not all of the contamination in the San Jacinto River is from the Waste Pits site. The Texas Commission on Environmental Quality and the Houston-Galveston Area Council have initiated total maximum daily load (TMDL) projects for the Houston Ship Channel, San Jacinto River, Upper Galveston Bay, and Galveston Bay to pinpoint different sources of dioxins, as well as polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs), another  highly toxic family of compounds, and develop a plan to reduce their concentration in the environment and seafood. General information about TMDL projects can be found here. Specific information on TMDL projects in the San Jacinto River Basin can be found here.

Get on Our Mailing List
If you would like to be added to our mailing/emailing list to receive San Jacinto River Waste Pits Superfund Site updates and public meeting notices, please contact Scott Jones of the Galveston Bay Foundation at 281-332-3381 x209 or e-mail sjones@galvbay.org.

For More Information
For more information on the SJRWP and its cleanup, please contact:

  • HARC Technical Advisor: Jennifer Ronk at (281) 363-7927 and jronk@harc.edu.
  • EPA SJRWP Project Manager: Gary Miller at (214) 665-8318 and Miller.Garyg@epamail.epa.gov.
  • EPA Community Involvement Coordinator: Donn Walters at (214) 665-6483 and Walters.Donn@epamail.epa.gov.
  • Texas Department of State Health Services (for information on the Public Health Assessment): Richard Beauchamp at (512) 776-6434 and Richard.Beauchamp@dshs.state.tx.us.
  • Texas Department of State Health Services (for information seafood advisories and shellfish harvest areas): Michael Tennant at (512) 834-6757 and michael.tennant@dshs.state.tx.us.
  • Texas Department of State Health Services (for information on the Public Health Assessment and seafood advisories): Tina Walker at (512) 776-2932 and tina.walker@dshs.state.tx.us.
  • Texas Commission on Environmental Quality Superfund Community Relations: Crystal Taylor at (512) 239-3844 and crystal.taylor@tceq.texas.gov.
  • Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (for information on sediment dioxin concentrations in the bay system and other potential sources): Linda Broach at (713) 767-3579 and Linda.Broach@tceq.texas.gov
  • Houston-Galveston Area Council (for information on the Total Maximum Daily Load projects:Steven Johnston at (832) 681-2579 and steven.johnston@h-gac.com

Note: You can find all of the EPA’s SJRWP contacts here: http://www.epa.gov/region6/6sf/texas/san_jacinto/contacts.html.


For more information about the Technical Assistance Grant itself, contact Scott Jones of the Galveston Bay Foundation at (281) 332-3381 x209 or sjones@galvbay.org.