EPA orders cleanup at toxic Texas waste site flooded by Harvey
WASHINGTON — The Trump administration has handed a rare victory to environmentalists, ordering two big corporations this week to pay $115 million to clean up a Texas toxic waste site that may have spread dangerous levels of pollution during flooding from Hurricane Harvey.
Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Scott Pruitt signed a directive Wednesday requiring International Paper and McGinnis Industrial Maintenance Corp., a subsidiary of Waste Management Inc., to excavate 212,000 cubic yards of sediment from the San Jacinto River Waste Pits site.
Pruitt visited the Superfund site outside Houston last month following historic rains and flooding from the storm, meeting with local environmental activists who had campaigned for years for approval of a cleanup plan.
Pruitt has said cleaning Superfund sites is among his top priorities, even as he has worked to delay and rollback an array of environmental regulations that would reduce air and water pollution. Often Pruitt has done so at the behest of industries that petitioned him for relief from what they characterize as overly burdensome and costly regulations.
At the San Jacinto Pits, both companies opposed the expensive cleanup, arguing that a fabric and stone cap covering the 16-acre site was sufficient. The former site of a demolished paper mill that operated in the 1960s, the island in the middle of the San Jacinto River is heavily contaminated with dioxins — chemicals linked to cancer and birth defects.