HOUSTON (FOX 26) - The toxic dump known as the San Jacinto River waste pits contains thousands of tons of cancer-causing Dioxin-laced pollution. The companies responsible for the waste have insisted for years that the Dioxin is safely contained within an "armored cap" of plastic and rock. But the Environmental Protection Agency confirmed on Monday that divers have discovered a previously undetected breach - a substantial subsurface hole that has exposed the river to contamination.
"That means that the highly toxic waste that's within the pits is no longer contained," said Jackie Young of the San Jacinto River Coalition. Young fought for the underwater inspection. She says a 20-foot hole has exposed the surrounding water to untold amounts of Dioxin contamination. "The San Jacinto River is no longer a safe place to recreate, to fish. There is highly toxic waste currently in contact with the river waters."
Residents who leave near the site say they see the rift in the dump as an ongoing danger and proof that they've been misled by Waste Management and International Paper about the safety of the Super Fund Site.
"I think it's injured people." said Greg Moss, a 30-year resident of riverside community near the pits. "I think people are sick from it. I think people have died from it."
Harris County Attorney Vince Ryan, who has been fighting to force the dump's complete removal, calls the alarming discovery clear evidence that the waste pits cannot withstand heavy weather.
"The storms that we get are monumental and here we have a breach and there hasn't been a major storm go over that site," said Ryan. "The only real solution is removing that Dioxin."
The EPA ordered the responsible parties to present a repair plan by Dec. 21.
International Paper issued the following statement:
As the EPA has indicated, the responsible parties are responding with a plan that fully addresses the requirements requested from the Agency regarding the San Jacinto Superfund site. As always, we continue to fully follow the EPA’s Superfund process and direction. We remain committed to responsibly completing the site's remediation in a manner that's safe and fully protects the public and the environment.
Waste Management subsidiary MIMC issued an identical statement.