The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) plans to take over cleaning up San Jacinto River’s two waste pits.
According to a Houston-based organization, Texas Health and Environment Alliance (THEA), contaminants from the two waste pits have been carried to nearby homes during floods since the 1960s. Residents used to play in the waste pits before they were made aware of just how toxic they are.
Jackie Medcalf is the Executive Director of THEA. She said the southern waste pit is now over 70% cleaned up, but the northern pit has been mostly untouched.
Medcalf said The EPA has tried to work with the companies that caused the waste pits in the past.
“There is not even a complete plan on how they are going to remove the waste that’s in the river,” Medcalf said. “The recent announcement from the EPA that they’re taking charge of the design process and will let the respondents know the path forward is a big step in the right direction.”
Medcalf said clean-up for the southern pit started in fall 2022, and physical removal of the waste started in February this year. The Houston Chronicle reported the EPA expects to finish clean-up site designs by the end of 2024.
However, Medcalf said the process is far from over.
“It’s important for people to remain engaged, to stay focused on getting this site fully cleaned up, and to be aware that the fish consumption advisory is still in place,” she said.
The Texas Department of State Health Services issued an advisory in 2005 for locals to limit consumption of spotted seatrout from the Houston Ship Channel. The advisory also states for women who are nursing, pregnant, or may become pregnant as well as children to avoid consumption at all. However, as of 2019, the department said no one should consume any fish caught in the ship channel.
“As long as these pits are in the river, they remain a threat to local communities, the San Jacinto River, and Galveston Bay’s Estuary,” Medcalf said.