Watch the SJRC Meeting Here.

Thank you to everyone who tuned in to our meeting on Tuesday where we went into detail on updates at the San Jacinto River Waste Pits Superfund Site.

For those of you who didn’t make the meeting, you can find the recording on YouTube here. Or keep reading for a summary of what we discussed!

Rachel Jordan, THEA’s Assistant Director, provides updates on what THEA has been up to in the community. (1:14)

Baytown Nurture Nature Festival:

We hosted a booth at the Baytown Nurture Nature Festival in early October to engage with community members and raise awareness about both the San Jacinto River Waste Pits as well as the seafood consumption advisory in place in the San Jacinto River, Houston Ship Channel and Upper Galveston Bay. We collected nearly 100 pictures and letters from children in the community expressing why clean water is important to them. We had such a great time getting to meet new community members and hear about their experiences with their local environment.

We have been conducting on-the-ground outreach regarding the San Jacinto River and Upper Galveston Bay seafood consumption advisories implemented by both the Texas Department of State Health Services. Many of the community members we spoke to out on the river were unaware of the contamination in local seafood. We decided to put together an informational packet and distribute them to local community centers, churches, schools, and businesses to help spread awareness and make sure families have the information they need to make informed decisions for their family’s health.

If you have a business, community center, or place of worship that may be willing to host some of our educational materials, please send us an email at ksingleton@txhea.org!

Unilateral Administrative Order (UAO) at the San Jacinto River Waste Pits (9:14)

The Waste Pits are divided up into two primary parts, the northern impoundment, and the southern impoundment. The northern impoundment is more complex, so it is moving at a slower pace toward remediation. The EPA, however, decided that they did not want progress at the site to be held up by complications with the northern impoundment, so they issued a UAO stating that the southern impoundment can move forward into the remedial action phase.

The remedial action phase is when construction to remove the toxic waste from the site actually begins. The EPA estimates that the procurement of contracts and materials will take about a year, so if all goes to plan, construction will break ground by the end of 2022.

During the construction process, we will definitely rely on our community members to help us keep watch over the process and ensure that what’s happening on the ground is in accordance with the plan that was approved by the EPA. At the end of the day,  EPA folks don’t actually live in our communities, so unfortunately it falls to us to make sure they are acting in the best interests of the people who will be most impacted by this process, local residents.

For more information on the details of what’s included in this order from the EPA, we recommend you refer to the recording of our meeting starting at minute 12:50. If you would like to read the actual UAO itself, you can find it on the EPA’s website here.

What does construction at the southern impoundment look like? (30:34)

Remedial construction at the southern site is going to look different than it will at the northern site. The entirety of the northern site will eventually be removed. But at the southern site, only portions of the site will be removed. 

Most of the southern impoundment is landlocked, but there is one area that will need to be treated with special care because it must be isolated from the river water to ensure remedial construction does not allow the contaminated material to release into the river water.

Construction is estimated to begin by the Fall of 2022, but it will only take place during certain parts of the year. Construction will take place November through May to avoid the vulnerable conditions during flood season and hurricane season.

Updates at the northern impoundment (33:43)

We are still waiting on the results from the sampling that took place this summer. As soon as we receive these results, our technical team will review them, and we will communicate with the community about what was found. Thorough sampling is essential to understanding the full extent of contamination at the northern site and which areas require excavation. So we must get this new round of sampling results soon so that the final remedial design can be finalized.

The final design is due to the EPA by this coming February. Once that document is published, our team will review it and we will communicate with the community about what it entails.