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News Releases from Region 06

EPA Directs Additional Safety Measures for San Jacinto River Waste Pits Superfund Site

Contact Information: 
Jennah Durant (R6Press@epa.gov)
Joe Hubbard

DALLAS - (Feb. 17, 2016) Today, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced new safety requirements for the temporary armored cap at the San Jacinto River Waste Pits Superfund Site in Harris County, Texas. EPA has directed both International Paper and Industrial Maintenance Corporation, the potentially responsible parties (PRPs) for the San Jacinto Waste Pits Superfund site in Harris County, to add 24 hour/7 day a week surveillance and warning buoys around the perimeter of the site boundaries. Inspection protocol requirements will be expanded and double the frequency of required underwater inspections from semi-annual to quarterly. In addition, EPA has instructed the PRPs to conduct additional environmental sampling from the temporary armored cap, sediments, surface water and groundwater. On February 16, the PRPs confirmed their intent to address each of EPA's directives.

In December 2015, EPA's inspection dive team discovered an area of possible damage to the temporary armored cap. Visual dive operations found displacement in the stone cover of the protective cap but could not fully delineate the damaged area or the full extent of damage to the protective cap. Pursuant to EPA's direction and oversight, the PRPs delineated a damaged portion of the rock layer measuring 25' by 22' (surface area). The precise cause of the damage to the cap is unknown and under investigation. The EPA has employed the assistance of U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to further investigate the possible causes of the damage.

The PRPs were required to collect sediment samples both from the damaged area as well as the surrounding undisturbed areas of cap to confirm no materials have been released from the site. EPA obtained split samples from several locations for analysis at an independent EPA approved laboratory. Quality assured sample results from EPA show waste material containing dioxins, a non-water soluble hazardous substance, was exposed due to damage to the armored cap. Sample results from the surrounding undisturbed areas of the cap did not show elevated levels of waste materials containing dioxins. Waste material containing Dioxin found at the site threatens public health primarily by direct contact to people. The San Jacinto Waste Pits site is securely fenced and public access is prohibited.

As directed, the PRPs deployed the necessary equipment and materials to repair the cap on December 29, 2015 and repairs were completed on January 4, 2016, under EPA review and field oversight. Both protective geotextile and rock were added to the damaged area. While it is unlikely that waste material containing Dioxin was released into the environment, additional scientific data is needed to confirm no materials have been released from the site. EPA has directed the PRPs to collect and analyze additional samples.

The PRPs developed an Operations, Monitoring, and Maintenance Plan under Federal Order by the EPA and completed work to prevent wastes from continuing to migrate to adjacent areas including the San Jacinto River in July 2011. The Order allows the Agency to require additional measures and investigations deemed necessary by the Agency from its periodic inspection of the protective cap. EPA is exercising that authority today.

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