THIRD of Texas’ 41 highly toxic waste dumping sites are now flooded – sparking fears that toxins linked to birth defects and cancer are leaching into floodwaters

Sunday, September 3, 2017
By Paul Martin

More than 100,000 homes have been destroyed by Harvey and there are 430,000 claims for FEMA aid
Several toxic waste dumping sites have also been flooded – some of which contain dioxins and other long-lasting toxins linked to birth defects and cancer
Environmental Protection Agency says it can’t access the sites to inspect them
Highlands Acid Pit site was filled with toxic sludge and sulfuric acid from oil operations in the 50s, and while excavated in the 80s, remains a potential hazard
An EPA report noted the risk that floodwaters might carry away and spread toxic materials over a wider area
Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner issued a new mandatory evacuation for flooded homes on Saturday
President Trump and Melania visited the city and met with Harvey victims

3 September 2017

Around a third of Texas’ 41 highly toxic waste dumping sites are now flooded – sparking fears that dangerous toxins could leach into floodwaters.

Long a center of the nation’s petrochemical industry, the Houston metro area has more than a dozen Superfund sites, designated by the Environmental Protection Agency as being among America’s most intensely contaminated places. Many are now flooded, with the risk that waters were stirring dangerous sediment.

Some such sites have been found to contain dioxins and other long-lasting toxins linked to birth defects and cancer.

The Highlands Acid Pit site near Chandler’s home was filled in the 1950s with toxic sludge and sulfuric acid from oil and gas operations. Though 22,000 cubic yards of hazardous waste and soil were excavated from the acid pits in the 1980s, the site is still considered a potential threat to groundwater, and the EPA maintains monitoring wells there.

When he was growing up in Highlands, Dwight Chandler, now 62, said he and his friends used to swim in the by-then abandoned pit.

‘My daddy talks about having bird dogs down there to run and the acid would eat the pads off their feet,’ he recounted on Thursday. ‘We didn’t know any better.’

He’s worried that Harvey’s floodwaters may have washed in pollution from the old acid pit just a couple blocks away.

The Associated Press surveyed seven Superfund sites in and around Houston during the flooding. All had been inundated with water, in some cases many feet deep.

On Saturday, hours after the AP published its first report, the EPA said it had reviewed aerial imagery confirming that 13 of the 41 Superfund sites in Texas were flooded by Harvey and were ‘experiencing possible damage’ due to the storm.

The statement confirmed the AP’s reporting that the EPA had not yet been able to physically visit the Houston-area sites, saying the sites had ‘not been accessible by response personnel.’ EPA staff had checked on two Superfund sites in Corpus Christi on Thursday and found no significant damage.

AP journalists used a boat to document the condition of one flooded Houston-area Superfund site, but accessed others with a vehicle or on foot. The EPA did not immediately respond to questions about why its personnel had not yet been able to do so.

‘Teams are in place to investigate possible damage to these sites as soon flood waters recede, and personnel are able to safely access the sites,’ the EPA statement said.

Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner, speaking with reporters at a news conference on Saturday after the AP report was published, said he wants the EPA ‘in town to address the situation.’

Turner said he didn’t know about the potential environmental concerns soon enough to discuss them with President Donald Trump.

‘Now we’re turning out attention to that,’ he said. ‘It is always a concern. The environment is very concerning, and we’ll get right on top of it.’

At the Highlands Acid Pit on Thursday, the Keep Out sign on the barbed-wire fence encircling the 3.3-acre site barely peeked above the churning water from the nearby San Jacinto River.

The Rest…HERE

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