Residents skeptical of EPA proposal for San Jacinto River waste pit

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Following today's announcement of the EPA proposal for the full removal of the San Jacinto River waste pits, residents expressed concerns that the news might be too good to be true.

The proposal calls for the complete removal of nearly 600 million pounds of cancer-causing Dioxin waste from the Superfund site known as the San Jacinto River Waste Pits, according to today's report from FOX 26's Greg Groogan (read full report.)

"It sounds wonderful, but once you start digging up hell, hell comes out," said DJ Brewer, who has lived along the San Jacinto waterfront for 15 years. "That is very scary, we are very very close to it. What, maybe two miles directly behind me."

Brewer is concerned as to whether it is truly possible for engineers to remove the waste without causing leaks into the river. "I don't want it flowing on down into my backyard and into everyone else's."

James Fretty has lived in the Highlands area for nearly seven decades. He believes the Dioxin has caused an increase in cancer cases for residents, including some in his own family.

"I was raised right there on Richards Street, and on Richards Street alone there are 18 people that have died of cancer," explained Fretty, who is also skeptical of the proposal.  "I'm going to wait and see if they really go ahead and really remove everything. Until then, I'll be skeptical."

Another concern is money. The proposal calls for the nearly $97-million project to be paid for by the companies legally responsible for the pollution, International Paper and a subsidiary of Houston-based Waste Management. Brewer is concerned as to whether both companies will actually agree to pay considering all the years they spent fighting the removal of the pits.

"The EPA can say whatever but unless somebody ponies up, I don't know what's going to happen," said Brewer.

Fretty says there the companies responsible should be given no option. "No amount of money is too expensive to remove it, they put it there they should remove it, I don't care what it cost them," said Fretty.

Residents can share their comments with the EPA directly at a public meeting October 20th, to be held at 6:30pm at the Highlands Community Center.

For more information on the proposal, visit