Chemical possibly leaked at flood site
WASHINGTON — The Environmental Protection Agency says an unknown amount of a dangerous chemical linked to birth defects and cancer may have washed downriver from a Houston-area Superfund site during the flooding from Hurricane Harvey.
EPA said Thursday night it has ordered the companies responsible for the San Jacinto River Waste Pits site to immediately address damage to a protective cap of fabric and rock intended to keep sediments highly contaminated with dioxins from spreading. The companies, International Paper and the Waste Management subsidiary McGinnis Industrial Maintenance Corp., have made initial repairs to the underwater section of the cap where the protective rock was missing.
EPA said a sample collected by an agency dive team from the exposed area showed dioxin levels at 70,000 nanograms per kilogram — more than 2,300 times the level set to trigger a cleanup. Dioxins do not dissolve easily in water but can be carried away with any contaminated sediments and deposited over a wider area.
Residents in nearby neighborhoods that flooded during the storm are now worried contaminated mud might have been washed into their homes.
At least a dozen Superfund sites in and around Houston were flooded last month in the days after Harvey’s record-shattering rains stopped. The San Jacinto River Waste Pits Superfund site is on and around a low-lying island that was home to a paper mill in the 1960s.