Houston Floodwaters Might Be Spreading Superfund Site Contaminants

Getty Image

It was bad enough that a chemical plant caught on fire in the midst of the ongoing flooding in Houston following hurricane Harvey, but now it looks like multiple Texan Superfund sites are underwater, possibly spreading contaminants. That’s especially unfortunate given that EPA head Scott Pruitt has discussed slashing the Superfund budget, a move that would significantly limit resources for cleaning up these highly contaminated sites even without the added complication of flood waters spreading toxic debris.

“If floodwaters have spread the chemicals in the waste pits, then dangerous chemicals like dioxin could be spread around the wider Houston area,” said Kara Cook-Schultz of the advocacy group TexPIRG. “Superfund sites are known to be the most dangerous places in the country, and they should have been properly protected against flooding.”

Bailey Waste Disposal in Beumont and the Highlands Acid Pit, French LTD, Brio Refining Inc., Jacinto River Waste Pits, and the Sikes Disposal Pits near Houston have all been hit by floodwaters from Harvey. That could not only make cleanup more difficult, it could ultimately affect community water supply and nearby wells. The longterm effects could be grave, as some of the substances found at these sites are linked to birth defects and cancer.

If Trump’s budget passes with even a small portion of the cuts to the EPA’s Superfund cleanup resources, that could hamper efforts to properly mitigate the damage Harvey has done to these already toxic places. As it stood before Harvey, cleaning up just one of these Superfund sites was estimated to cost $97 million. After the floodwaters recede, however, that number is sure to go up, affecting a larger area and requiring long-term testing.

(Via The Associated Press)