Monday, June 30, 2014

Enduring solution now
A July 4, 1837, advertisement for a settlement along the banks of the San Jacinto River praises a "high, beautiful and undulating district of country, distinguished for health, good water and soil." Almost two centuries have passed since that ad. With the growth in population, Texans should expect our rivers to be used for such activites as recreation, fishing and transportation. We should not expect our rivers to be poisoned.
In the mid-1960s, Champion Paper (now merged with International Paper) contracted with a company (now owned by the Waste Management family of companies) to dispose of toxic waste from a paper mill. As Chronicle editorial cartoonist Nick Anderson explained in his two-part series, "The San Jacinto River: In Peril" (Page B12, June 8 and Page B12, June 15) someone had a terrible idea and stored the waste, contaminated with dioxin, in three shallow pits adjacent to the San Jacinto River.
Fast forward: In 2008, the San Jacinto Waste Pits were placed on the National Priorities List of Superfund Sites due to the high level of dioxin contamination detected nearby.
According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, studies have shown that exposure to dioxins at high enough levels may cause a number of adverse health effects, including cancer. Harris County and, separately, a group of fishermen in Galveston County have filed suit against the originating companies and their successors. "Dioxin has already spread to Galveston Bay. It's pervasive. It's everywhere," according to Special Assistant Harris Country Attorney Terry O'Rourke.

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