New concerns of dioxin and PCBs in Galveston Bay

Texas Department of State Health Services (TDSHS) monitors fish for presence of environmental contaminants, has consumption alerts for several coastal areas. Dioxins and Polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) have been found in the waters north of the Fred Hartman Bridge, State Highway 146, including the San Jacinto River and below the Lake Houston Dam.

FOX 26 now reports a toxic dump that two Fortune 500 companies claim safely contains cancer-causing Dioxin has been found to be riddled with holes in its protective cap.

“We have a clear and present danger of Dioxin going into the San Jacinto River and Galveston Bay,” said Terrence O’Rourke of the Harris County Attorney’s Office. “The rocks are falling off, it’s just that simple. They are rocks on top of a tarp and the rocks are gone.”

Inspectors found a gap more than 20-feet wide in December 2015. This week, the Environmental Protection Agency acknowledged at least five additional locations at the site where protective containment was missing. Touted as strong enough to withstand a 100-year flood, the latest discoveries indicate that claim by International Paper and Waste Management may be a dangerous exaggeration. The Toxic waste dump could contaminate
Galveston Bay ‘forever.

Jackie Young of the San Jacinto River Coalition says more than 80 percent of the dump still hasn’t been inspected for holes or damage.

“The more deficiencies we find, the more holes we find just goes to show you that this great idea of containment is not going to work,” said Young. Other environmental watchdog groups are raising their voice in protest.

“This is a major threat to Galveston Bay,” said Scott Jones of the Galveston Bay Foundation. “It already has an impact through the Dioxin that’s been released.” He fears a nightmarish scenario with a major storm crushing through the vulnerable dump and spreading a toxin that never breaks down and renders seafood in the bay inedible for generations.

“From what I understand there is no appreciable degradation,” added Jones, who joined Young in calling for a complete removal of the Dioxin waste. “We are talking forever! It’s too risky. The bay is too important and we are here to protect the bay and all its users.”

While both International Paper and Waste Management have declined multiple offers to tell their side of this story on camera the companies have said they are working with the EPA to implement a long-term solution.

For its part, the EPA says underwater inspection of the dump will begin in April and a final decision on its future reached by year’s end.

Tom Behrens:
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