Saturday, May 6, 2017

PCB, Dioxin, Toxins, San Jacinto River waste pits, fish, and Galveston Bay

Subject: PCB, Dioxin, Toxins, San Jacinto River waste pits, fish, and Galveston Bay

New analysis of a deceased adult female killer whale, named Lulu by researchers, shows that the animal’s blubber contained some of the highest levels ever recorded of polychlorinated biphenyls, or PCBs, a toxic chemical once pervasive in electrical components.

The researchers called Lulu the “Scottish killer whale most contaminated on the planet.”

Both dioxin and polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) are extremely persistent in the environment. In July 2008, the Texas Department of State Health Services (DSHS) advised people not to eat catfish species or spotted sea trout from the Galveston Bay system, including Chocolate Bay, East Bay, West Bay, Trinity Bay, and contiguous waters. The advisory was issued due to dioxin and PCBs found in fish tissue.

Galveston Bay System: A Survey of Dioxin and PCBs A completed project to assess the distribution of dioxin and PCBs in the system and evaluate options for reducing them so it is safer to eat fish from the area waterways.

Counties: Brazoria, Calhoun, Chambers, Galveston, Harris, Jackson, Matagorda, Refugio, San Patricio, Victoria Parameters: Dioxin and PCBs Basins: Bays and Estuaries, Neches-Trinity Coastal, Trinity River, Trinity–San Jacinto Coastal, San Jacinto River, San Jacinto–Brazos Coastal Segments: 0702, 0801, 1101, 1103, 1113, 2421, 2422, 2423, 2424, 2425, 2431, 2432, 2437, 2438, 2439, 2501

Overview Adobe Acrobat PDF Document Background and Goals Get Involved Contact Us Background and Goals

Both dioxin and polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) are extremely persistent in the environment. In July 2008, the Texas Department of State Health Services (DSHS) advised people not to eat catfish species or spotted sea trout from the Galveston Bay system, including Chocolate Bay, East Bay, West Bay, Trinity Bay, and contiguous waters. The advisory was issued due to dioxin and PCBs found in fish tissue.

More information about the consumption advisory is available in Advisory 49 on the DSHS web site. Exit the TCEQ Overexposure to dioxin can cause a variety of harmful health problems, including cancer, birth defects, diabetes, developmental delays, and immune system abnormalities. PCBs are linked to increased rates of certain cancers in rats, mice and study animals, suggesting they probably increase cancer risks for humans.

This survey project collected and assessed data to determine the distribution of PCBs and dioxins throughout the bay system and evaluate options for reducing the contamination in fish.

In 2011, International Paper and McGinnes agreed to fit an armored cap over the pits. Meant to be a temporary stay on the steady release of toxins from the dump, the cap allowed the companies to step back and figure out their next course of action.

Meanwhile, independent environmental scientists report that the people living closest to the dump site are at daily risk of exposure to dioxin, which has a half-life of seven years in the human body and up to 100 underground. Dr. Sam Brody of Texas A&M University -- Galveston, a sustainable coasts researcher, characterizes the temporary cap as a "ticking time bomb" unlikely to withstand another major hurricane. Nevertheless, the EPA says the responsible companies are lobbying to keep the cap in place, fueling residents' fears that if a storm dislodges it, toxic flooding could render them homeless.

Greg Moss, a plaintiff in the Harpster lawsuit who has lived in the area for 30 years, says catching clams and crabs, jet-skiing and riding ATVs on the riverbank used to be an all-weekend affair. His boat motor business took a hit when Harris County publicized the existence of the waste pits, Moss says, but he won't blame recreational sailors for keeping their distance. He hasn't been on the river either since he heard about the dioxin.

Moss wants to move, but he's not going to just pack up and walk away from a house he's completely paid off. "It's a nice home with a nice view, a nice property, and by the way, right down the road there's a Superfund toxic waste dump that causes cancer and all kinds of other diseases," he says. "You can't sell it."

The case for neighborhood buyouts has its precedents throughout environmental law. In 2013, Carver Terrace, a Port Arthur public housing project built next to a row of oil refineries, became a case study in successful relocation. When officials determined that residents lived with daily risk of exposure to air pollution and chemical spills, they boarded up the complex and transplanted everybody to a new one. 

More recently, however, a Corpus Christi judge let Citgo slide on paying reparations to locals complaining that the oil giant's uncovered tanks had unleashed the carcinogen benzene throughout their neighborhoods. Residents wanted $55 million for relocation and medical expenses, but seven years after the initial conviction, U.S. District Judge John Rainey ordered Citgo to pay only $2 million in penalties. His reasoning: It would take too long to calculate how much each complainant should be paid.

EPA maps show that the cancer risk for the swath of communities beside the San Jacinto River down to the Houston Ship Channel and Galveston Bay is higher than the state average and other parts of the Houston area, including the central part of the city. Even so, it's difficult to trace residents' health problems to a single environmental factor. The area is a maze of Superfund sites, relics of Houston's lifeblood industry.

Still, environmentalists say the waste pits are undeniably connected to high levels of dioxin found on neighboring properties. They point to state health studies that concluded chemicals found near the dump site pose "high possible risks for cancer" in those who eat local seafood and are regularly exposed to contaminated sediments.

Stop stalling! Clean up the waste pits The public will have 60 days to tell the EPA how the San Jac River waste pits have affected their lives.

Copyright 2016: Houston Chronicle

September 29, 2016 

6 Signs near the San Jacinto River waste pits warn people not to enter or consume fish from the area. Photo: James Nielsen / Copyright 2016 Houston Chronicle Photo: James Nielsen Signs near the San Jacinto River waste pits warn people not to enter or consume fish from the area. 

One of the most beautiful stretches of water in our state is the San Jacinto River north of Galveston Bay. Near one section of the river that swells so wide it resembles a bay, wildflowers sprinkle the grassy fields and fish jump in the blue water. But the bucolic scene is deceiving. It's the site of one of the most poisonous places in Texas. The San Jacinto waste pits lay underneath the river adjacent to the Interstate 10 bridge, between the communities of Highlands and Channelview.

The poison in the pits has been leaking into the water since the early 1960s. It's called dioxin, and it's a highly toxic chemical. The companies that have been responsible for the toxic sludge have been busy in the intervening decades at first ignoring the site, then proposing temporary solutions. Next, they've been bickering with government agencies and generally dragging their feet all the while residents have possibly suffered health consequences from their proximity to the poisonous waste.

The area around the contaminated site resembles modest waterfront communities everywhere. U.S. flags hoisted up on flagpoles wave in the breeze. Clapboard and mobile homes occupy lots commanding views of the river. Some are built on stilts and overlook marshy front yards. Bass boats, skiffs and cabin boats are parked in driveways next to pickups loaded with coolers ready for weekend recreation.

But Texans for decades have been unable to come to the San Jacinto River to recreate, or do much else in this public waterway. No one's been able to swim in the river without risk of exposure to the pollutants' harmful effects. We can't trust that the fish or crab we catch from our boats would be safe to eat. No one can park campers and camp along the banks free from concern. Every year, we all worry that a hurricane will come through and devastate the area and further spread the toxic mess.


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 Demonstrators protest the Republican health care bill at the Capitol in Washington, May 4, 2017. The House will vote on legislation to repeal and replace major parts of the Affordable Care Act. (Gabriella Demczuk/The New York Times) Sunday letters: "Repeal and replace" advancing Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner delivers his annual State of the City address last week. ( Photo by Yi-Chin Lee / Houston Chronicle ) An idea beckons President Donald Trump and House Speaker Paul Ryan enjoyed a White House victory lap Thursday. (Photo by Andrew Harrer/Bloomberg) Trumpcare Students gather in the Rotunda at the Texas Capitol to oppose SB4, an anti-"sanctuary cities" bill that already cleared the Texas Senate and seeks to jail sheriffs and other officials who refuse to help enforce federal immigration law, as the Texas House prepares to debate the bill, Wednesday, April 26, 2017, in Austin, Texas. Many sheriffs and police chiefs in heavily Democratic areas warn that it will make their jobs harder if immigrant communities, including crime victims and witnesses, become afraid of police. (AP Photo/Eric Gay) Sunday letters: Sanctuary cities, private schools, Hispanic (Fotolia) America's doctor Finally on Wednesday the Environmental Protection Agency proposed a solution: removal of about 202,000 cubic yards of contaminated material at cost of nearly $100 million. The agency's rationale: Removal is the surest way to prevent a catastrophe in our area.

It's past time to get this waste out. There's a 60 day comment period before the EPA's remedial action for the site goes on record. Then, there's a period where the EPA will negotiate with the responsible companies - International Paper and McGinnis Industrial Maintenance Corp., an affiliated company of Houston-based Waste Management of Texas Inc., - to remove their pollution from our waterways and to come up with a settlement.

Instead of filing protests and needless lawsuits, Waste Management and International Paper should take this as an opportunity to be good environmental stewards and act to set this wrong right. They should agree to settle this action and enter into a consent decree that will be approved by the courts.

U.S. Rep. Gene Green, whose district included the waste pits for many years, has worked hard to achieve removal and is still willing "to do anything I can do." Now the pits are in U.S. Rep. Brian Babin's district. He needs to push to close the deal.

The stakes are high. EPA has classified dioxin as a probable human carcinogen. Dioxin increases the risk for several cancers, including lung cancer and non-Hodgkin's lymphoma, and has been linked to birth defects, liver damage and dermatological disorders.

Tissue samples from blue crab, hardhead catfish and other fish in the vicinity of the site show elevated levels of dioxins. Some people do fish and crab around the site even though consumption of mollusks and shellfish taken from public fresh waters is discouraged.

This issue has been around for a while but was most recently revived in a 2014 series of cartoons by the Chronicle's Pulitzer Prize-winning editorial cartoonist Nick Anderson. Anderson's work illustrated a history of the problem that Harris County Attorney Vince Ryan has called "a game-changer" and has done much to raise awareness about the threat that the site poses to Galveston Bay and the aquatic life there.

Removal can be done in a way that keeps people safe. The EPA has spearheaded cleanups on waterways before, most notably on the Hudson River that flows primarily through eastern New York in the United States. The efforts have been so successful that towns along the upper Hudson have begun revitalizing and dreaming about a future where kids can swim and play along the shores without fear of contamination.

Sites of toxic contamination will return to their natural state in scores of years with or without the intervention of man. But it is unconscionable for residents of these communities to have to wait any longer while the responsible companies engage in litigation and stalling tactics.

Area residents deserve to live to see the day that the river is clean and safe again.

 With dioxin contamination confirmed Hitchcock leaders demand more testing at dump

POSTED:MAR 07 2017 06:54PM CST UPDATED:MAR 07 2017 06:54PM CST HITCHCOCK, Texas (FOX 26) - 

From the air, the waste pits appear carved out of Galveston Bay's fragile coastline.

Fox 26 has confirmed these "black lagoons" are dangerously contaminated with the cancer causing chemical known as Dioxin.

"Where do we stand, the city of Hitchcock and some of the other communities around us? This could escape and get into the waters and that's what concerns me," said Mayor Anthony Matranga.

Matranga's call was echoed by former Hitchcock Mayor Harry Robinson who says residents here have long accepted the assurances of the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality. Fox 26's revelation has disrupted that comfort.

"It should concern every citizen of Hitchcock and every fisherman in Galveston County. We need further testing and if we need to have an independent survey or group come in, we should do that," said Robinson.

Turns out, when it comes to the McGinnes pits the state agency has a long history of downplaying the risk. In 1991, Dr. Marvin LeGater, lead environmental toxicologist at Galveston's UT-Medical Branch identified seven known carcinogens in the sludge including highly toxic Chromium, cadmium, mercury, arsenic and lead. LeGater told the Galveston Daily News "For the Water Commission to say that the McGinnis pits are not hazardous is a bunch of bunk."

Former state representative Mike Martin says the chilling confirmation of Dioxin in the toxic stew serves to confirm that the largely open pits pose an ongoing danger to unsuspecting people and Galveston Bay.

"When a fish ingests wastewater effluent and has dioxin in its tissue, it stays. So, when it gets caught and put on the table and eaten by your daughter or your son they are eating a carcinogen and don't even know it," said Martin.

Toxic Contaminant Characterization of Aquatic Organisms in Galveston Bay: A Pilot Study

J.M. Brooks, T.L. Wade, M.C. Kennicutt II, D. Wiesenburg, D. Wilkinson, T.J. McDonald, and S.J. McDonald


Little information regarding historical trends and concentrations of heavy metals, hydrocarbons, pesticides and PCBs in aquatic organisms from Galveston Bay is available to guide decision makers and regulators. Each year millions of pounds of fish and shellfish are caught by commercial and sport fishermen in Galveston Bay and consumed by the public. However, little or no testing of edible tissues for toxic contamination by heavy metals, hydrocarbons, pesticides and PCBs has been conducted to assure public health and safety. For this reason, the Galveston Bay National Estuary Program (GBNEP), funded by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the Texas Water Commission (TWC), undertook this study to characterize contamination in edible fish and shellfish from Galveston Bay.

The sampling design called for the analysis of trace contaminants in five species from four sites in Galveston Bay. The five species of edible fish or shellfish targeted for collection and analyzed were: two macro invertebrates, Crassostrea virginica, the Virginia oyster, and Callinectes sapidus, the blue crab; and three vertebrate marine fishes, Cynoscion nebulosus, the spotted seatrout, Pogonias cromis, the black drum, and Paralichlhys lethostigma, the southern flounder. The goal of the sampling program was to collect ten specimens of each target organism that were of legal market size from each collection site. Standard fisheries data were recorded for all collections. The collection sites for these target species were Morgans Point, at the mouth of the Houston Ship Channel, Eagle Point off San Leon, Carancahua Reef in West Bay, and Hanna Reef in East Bay.

Four samplings of aquatic organisms were launched for GBNEP. The first sampling in late May (23-25) 1990 collected oyster and crab samples; however, trawling for fish was not very successful because Trinity River flooding caused low salinity water. A second sampling was undertaken in early June (6-8) 1990 that involved gill netting at the four sites. This sampling had some success in collecting drum, sea catfish, trout and flounder from some of the sites, although not in sufficient quantities for most analyses. Most fish samples were collected from July 30 to August 3, 1990, after the bay had returned to a more normal salinity. However, the Apex Barge spill on July 28, 1990, complicated late July sampling. Because of this spill, few fish were collected near Eagle Point (close to the oil spill site). A final sampling trip on September 4-6, 1990 completed the collection at Eagle Point.

The analytical program called for the analyses of 10 individual specimens of the target organisms from each site [200 edible tissue (muscle) samples]. Fifty (50) liver samples were composed for analysis from the -120 fishes. The trace contaminants that were measured included heavy metals, polynuclear aromatic hydrocarbons (PAH's), pesticides and PCBs and a GC-MS scan for other EPA organic priority pollutants. Trace elements of interest in this study were those on the EPA Priority Pollutant List (PPL) which included: arsenic (As), cadmium (Cd), chromium (Cr), copper (Cu), lead (Pb), mercury (Hg), nickel (Ni), selenium (Se), silver (Ag) and zinc (Zn). GC/MS/SIMs determined polynuclear aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) including thirty-nine (39) two- to five-ring aromatics and selected alkylated homologs. Gas chromatography with electron capture detection (ECD) determined pesticides and PCBs. Selected chlorinated pesticides (aldrin, chlordane, dieldrin, endrin, heptachlor, BHC, heptachlor epoxide, hexachlorobenzene, lindane, mirex, transnonachlor, toxaphene, DDTs, DDDs and DDEs) and 20 individual PCB congeners were quantitated. Analytical methods for both trace metal and trace organic analyses followed procedures of the NOAA National Status and Trends Mussel Watch Program.

In general, trace contaminants were higher in oyster and crab tissues than fish tissue. This was especially true for trace organics and certain trace metals such as zinc, lead, nickel, copper, cadmium and silver. Mercury showed the opposite trend with higher concentrations in fish tissue. Based on the distribution of PAHs and their alkylated homologs, most PAHs in Galveston Bay seem to originate from combustion sources (atmospheric deposition or runoff) and not from petroleum inputs. Low levels of DDT and its metabolites (DDD and DDE) represented the chlorinated hydrocarbons. As expected, higher contaminant levels were generally found in the upper portion of Galveston Bay (Morgans Point) near the Houston Ship Channel.

It is important to note that this study gives only snapshot information about contamination of Galveston Bay seafood. Several unusual environmental conditions occurred during the sampling program which may have altered the representativeness of the organisms collected. First was the flooding of the Trinity River during 1990. The Trinity River dumped an extremely high volume of fresh water into Galveston Bay in the spring of 1990. This flooding produced atypically low salinities during the sampling period. As a result, the samplings were not always successful in collecting target organisms that would have been present under normal salinity conditions. Also, the Apex barge spill, which occurred during the third sampling period, could have had adverse effects on the representativeness of the levels measured and the species collected. If the oil spill added extra contamination to the samples, the values used would be unusually high. Conversely, exposure of the target organisms to pollutants may have been reduced, since it is likely that the organisms were in residence for relatively brief periods due to the prolonged low salinities and the oil spill. If these organisms did not reside in the estuary for periods of time which could be considered typical for estuarine species, due to the unusual conditions, then the data might not be totally representative of typical bay conditions.

In using the data reported here, one should consider the potential implications of these extended unusual environmental conditions and their potential effects on the exposure histories of the organisms collected. With these caveats, the following conclusions were made from the data collected during this study:

• Morgans Point is the most contaminated sampling site

• Contamination generally decreased downbay (except PAH)

• Oysters are generally the most contaminated species, crabs the least

• PAHs and PCBs are responsible for most of the carcinogenic risk associated with consumption of Galveston Bay seafood

• Risk associated with consumption of average amounts of seafood in some parts of the bay is above the 1 x 10-4 benchmark risk level which EPA has previously used to flag possible problems.

Chapter 6

Public Health Protection

Priority Problem

The Galveston Bay Estuary is the state's largest source of seafood, and is one of the major oyster producing areas in the country. Commercial and recreational fishing represents a nearly one-billion dollar industry, and molluscan shellfish (e.g., oysters) and other seafood (e.g., crabs, shrimp, and finfish) harvested from Galveston Bay are consumed by millions of individuals. Maintenance of adequate public health standards within estuarine seafood is important for the protection of the general public, and is also critical for the long-term stability of the fishing industry.

The Texas Department of Health has controlled the harvest of shellfish from Galveston Bay for approximately 40 years, and the quality of produced molluscan shellfish has been maintained at a level which has posed a minimal risk of illness. However, limited funding is available for this shellfish program, and accordingly, shellfish closures are believed to be larger than would be necessary with a greater frequency of field sampling. To address this problem, an expansion of the shellfish sampling program, including more frequent sampling, is recommended.

Galveston Bay receives the largest total amount of industrial and municipal effluent of all Texas estuaries, and also receives significant amounts of contaminants from non-point sources via stormwater runoff. Loading estimates for a large number of metals and organic chemicals are incomplete, and insufficient data are available regarding the distribution of potentially toxic compounds within estuarine waters and sediment. Fish and shellfish from Galveston By are not routinely sampled for toxic contaminants, nor are consumer risks routinely assessed by any government entity and communicated to the public. To address this situation, the Public Health Protection Task Force of GBNEP recommends additional research to establish riskbased standards for toxic contaminants within seafood. Based on established standards, the implementation of a seafood sampling, analysis, and risk communication program is recommended to safeguard the quality of seafood produced form the Galveston Bay Estuary.

PCBs and dioxins persist for many years in the environment. Thus pollution sources from decades ago may still be present and having effects now.

How much of Galveston Bay is affected by the Advisory?

The Texas Department of State Health Services (DSHS) has issued an advisory recommending limited consumption of spotted seatrout (speckled trout) and all catfish species in Galveston Bay. This advisory includes the following minor bays associated with the Galveston Bay system: Trinity Bay, Upper and Lower Galveston Bay, East Bay, West Bay, Chocolate Bay and contiguous waters. Maps of the advisory area can be found at

What about Spotted Seatrout and Catfish caught outside the Advisory area?

Since spotted seatrout and catfish readily move within a bay system, one potential source of public concern is how extensive the PCB/dioxin problem is within areas adjacent to the advisory area of Galveston Bay. The DSHS study did not include samples beyond Galveston Bay, Trinity Bay, East Bay and West Bay. TPWD is supportive of Texas Department of State Health Services in their attempts to locate additional funding to expand their monitoring efforts in waters adjacent to Galveston Bay and in other bay systems.

Are other game fish species affected?

Sampling conducted by the Texas Department of State Health Services in 2004 and 2006-2007 included samples from other species, including red drum, black drum, southern flounder and blue crab. However, only spotted seatrout and catfish showed elevated levels of PCBs/dioxins that would be cause for concern. This is most likely due to different rates of metabolism between species, age, size, fat content, diet and seasonal behavioral patterns. 




GALVESTON BAY FOUNDATION Remove San Jacinto waste pits dioxin to protect the bay and its users


CLEAN HARBORS Ruling may take more than year in bayou discharge request

Some questions for Larry Taylor 

By ROBB O. ROURKE JR. May 4, 2017 1 

I have a concern and wanted, like many of us that live within your Senate district, your thoughts and opinions as to a cause of actions in response to the discussion on the fact that seafood has not been tested for toxins over the past four years...

that is an excellent question, one that myself and many others that consume seafood from Galveston Bay would like to know the answer too... Terry S. Singeltary Sr.

Senator Larry Taylor

The Honorable Larry Taylor P.O. Box 12068 Capitol Station Austin, TX 78711 

(512) 463-0111 (TEL) 6117 Broadway, Suite 122 Pearland, TX 77581

(281) 485-9800 (TEL) (281) 485-9804 (FAX) District Address 174 Calder Road, Suite 151 League City, TX 77573

(281) 332-0003 (TEL) (281) 332-0036 (FAX) 

Terry S. Singeltary Sr. 

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