Posted: Thursday, December 22, 2016 10:00 pm
By SCOTT JONES
The Galveston Bay Foundation has been working with the Environmental Protection Agency, the responsible companies and other stakeholders on the San Jacinto River Waste Pits since this site was placed on the Superfund list in 2008. We are calling for removal of the dioxin wastes, rather than capping.
A cap on the waste pits could fail next spring from a flood or next summer from a hurricane, leading to an uncontrolled release of dioxins. We’d face that risk every year for another 750 years, the time it will take the wastes to degrade to a safe concentration. Removal done right using modern techniques, as has been done at other sites, is much less risky than capping. We need to remove this very real risk to the bay as soon as possible, once and for all.
The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers report did not recommend one way or the other. It certainly did not recommend capping. The corps answered 18 questions posed by the EPA and you have to read all 224 pages to get the complete story. The foundation did so.
The truth is that either “side” could take from the report statements supporting their argument. However, the foundation believes the corps’ statements that highlight the risks of an uncontrolled release from a capped waste pit trump any statements that support capping. The corps stated the uncertainty in any analysis of the long-term reliability of the cap to protect us from hurricanes and floods is very high. In other words, we can’t analyze the risk and produce accurate models to determine if capping will protect us hundreds of years into the future.
The corps report tells us the risk from a controlled removal is acceptable by comparison. The corps writes “Excavating the Western Cell in the dry and containing the rest of the site in a sheet pile wall could reduce the resuspension release of waste to 0.3 percent.” That corresponds to a release of 480 metric tons of dry solids which would contain 2 grams of dioxin. Compare that to the EPA estimation of a 29 percent loss of the dioxin from an “upgraded” cap, 80 percent of which is severely eroded during a severe hydrological event (hurricane storm surge and flood flow). That release is about 140 times the amount of dioxin lost during a controlled removal.
And if you try to further enhance a cap to try to prevent such severe erosion by doubling the thickness of the cap with rocks much larger than what is being currently used, the EPA warns that the wastes could be pushed out of the sides of the cap, which would expose the dioxins to the river and the bay. That is one more reason the EPA came to the conclusion that removal is less risky than a cap. We are thankful they did so.
See www.galvbay.org/wastepits for more information on why we support removal. We urge you to do the same by writing a comment letter to EPA supporting their proposed plan by Jan. 12.
Scott Jones is the director of advocacy of the Galveston Bay Foundation.
THANK YOU SCOTT AND GALVESTON BAY FOUNDATION !
Wednesday, November 30, 2016