Waste Management secretly funded 'grassroots' opposition to toxic dump removal

In Texas, it often takes a court house to jar loose the truth and such is the case with the decade-long battle over the San Jacinto River Waste Pits and the half a billion pounds of cancer-causing Dioxin waste dumped there.

Court records obtained by FOX 26 reveal so called independent citizen groups opposing removal of the Dioxin were secretly receiving resources from Waste Management and its subsidiary McGinnes Industrial Management Corporation.

That's important, because the $100 million cost of the cleanup ordered by the EPA will come straight out of the company’s pocket.

"It's important for the public to know this connection. For years we've wondered who's really behind these groups. It was clear that they had big money behind them, but there was no transparency with these groups," said Jackie Young of the Texas Health and Environment Alliance

The court documents reveal Waste Management was "significantly involved" with a group known as "Keep It Capped" as well as the Galveston Maritime Business Association -- a collaboration that was never revealed in multiple public hearings.

Activist Young believes the grassroots opposition to Dioxin removal quietly supported by Waste Management was both mercenary and manufactured.

"Those of us who live or have lived in the community know that you don't meet any real people who support containment. People who live in those communities right there live in fear of that site and want it out of there," said Young.

J.T. Edwards, President of the Galveston Maritime Business Association and a vocal opponent of the EPA's decision to cleanup the Waste Pits confirmed his organization received resources from Waste Management.

"A donor who we thought was using their own money was really coming from Waste Management, that's what we learned just recently," said Edwards. 

Edwards welcomes financial backing from Waste Management, past or future and sees no conflict of interest.

"Yes, we would definitely enjoy having Waste Management on. Hey, it's fantastic and I think it’s going to be good for the community," said Edwards.

On January 30, residents of Galveston get their say on the risk and reward of Dioxin removal up-stream when the EPA comes to the Island for a public hearing on the cleanup ordered by administrator Scott Pruitt.

A spokesperson for the Waste Management companies responded to FOX 26's request for comment with a statement:

Counsel for MIMC and the Waste Management entities advised the Court in December that they had just learned that an additional PR firm had been retained to assist MIMC with advice and community outreach efforts relating to the proposed EPA remedy for the San Jacinto Superfund site.  The companies do not believe that the community outreach efforts are relevant to the personal injury or property claims involved in the pending litigation.  MIMC continues to engage constructively with EPA in the remedial design phase of the selected remedy for the site.