HOUSTON (FOX 26) - New and alarming data confirms the San Jacinto River has been exposed to alarming levels of cancer-causing Dioxin from a half-century-old dump that has failed to contain the pollution.
"I think the biggest takeaway is that the concentrations of Dioxin are astronomical," said Scott Jones of the Galveston Bay Foundation. Jones also says while the recent tests discovered only trace amounts of the carcinogen in a few areas around the San Jacinto River waste pits, other unprotected portions of the partially-submerged Superfund site have been exposing the river and everything in it to frightening levels of the toxin.
"43,000 parts per trillion, a safe level for a recreational visitor is 220," adds Jones.
Terrence O'Rourke of the Harris County Attorney's Office says these results provide further, undeniable evidence that the temporary armored cap of plastic and rock has proven a colossal fail.
"This 2,3,7,8 Dioxin is the most lethal chemical ever made by human beings and there is no solution that we know of other than digging it out and getting it out of the river," said O'Rourke, whose boss Vince Ryan has urged the Environmental Protection Agency to order a complete clean-up. "The idea that you are going to leave this stuff in the river during a hurricane is preposterous."
And yet the companies responsible for the Dioxin, International Paper and Waste Management, have proposed keeping the Dioxin exactly where it is, permanently. Jones calls that option "a ticking timebomb" - a pollutant with the potential to catastrophically taint entire seafood populations in Galveston Bay.
"There's no safe level of Dioxin to consume," says Jones, who fears the toxin will enter the food chain after settling in the sediment. "The bottom line is there is just too much risk to try and cap this stuff in place. It's extremely dangerous and it's extremely toxic."
The San Jacinto River Coalition offered the following statement:
The recent data confirms that the EPA and the Responsible Parties have failed to contain the Waste Pits. The levels of Dioxin and furans found are 40,000 times what medical research has associated with adverse health effects. The Pits remain a threat to public health, water resources, and Galveston Bay's precious estuary. These findings prove that containment is not a viable short-term or long-term remedy and we need immediate action.
The EPA has promised east Harris County residents that a final decision on the San Jacinto River waste pits will me made by December.
To review the test results, visit http://galvbay.org/how-we-protect-the-bay/taking-action/sjrwp/.