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.
While the State of Texas and the Waste Management subsidiary that did the dumping claim the sludge is safely contained from storm surge, the mayor of nearby Hitchcock has joined environmentalists in a call for action.
"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.
Test results delivered to the TCEQ in 2009 confirmed the dangerous levels of Dioxin at the McGinnis pits.
Matranga and Robinson say the state agency never shared the information with their city.