EPA orders $115M cleanup of Texas superfund site damaged by Harvey

By Danielle Haynes Follow @DanielleHaynes1 Contact the Author   |  Oct. 20, 2017 at 6:35 PM
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Oct. 20 (UPI) -- The Environmental Protection Agency signed off on a plan to make more extensive repairs to a riverbed near a superfund site in Texas damaged by Hurricane Harvey.

The EPA said there was erosion of the river bottom up to 12 feet deep near the cap of the San Jacinto River Waste Pits Superfund Site in Harris County. The agency on Thursday directed two companies -- International Paper and a subsidiary of Waste Management Inc. -- to stabilize an area about 40 feet by 400 feet in area.

The repairs include the placement of a geotextile fabric layer covered with at least 3 feet of rock with a median diameter of 8 inches.

The EPA said the work should take about three weeks to complete and cost $115 million.

On Sept. 28, officials determined the superfund site leaked toxic chemicals after the hurricane damaged a protective cap at the site. Tests conducted on sediment samples at the site found elevated levels of dioxin.

"The sample showed dioxins above 70,000 ng/kg. EPA recommend clean up level for the site is 30 ng/kg," the EPA said.

Parts of the superfund site are usually underwater, but water levels increased between 12 feet and 14 feet due to Harvey.

EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt met with Harris County officials who monitor cleanup at the superfund site. He said the new cleanup effort should permanently address contamination risks at the site.

"For nearly a decade, the San Jacinto site has lingered on the national priority list and gone largely ignored," he said. "This agency is committed to helping dispose of these toxic materials in a cost-effective and efficient way to better ensure a healthy and safe environment for nearby residents."

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