Scott Pruitt, head of the Environmental Protection Agency, has made good on his word.
With three days to go before the football game between Oklahoma University and University of Texas, the deadline Pruitt set when he visited the San Jacinto Waste Pits and other Houston-area sites after Hurricane Harvey rolled through town last month, the EPA has indeed made a decision on the fate of the pits.
The dioxin-packed, partially submerged pits tucked along the lip of the San Jacinto River will be removed.
"Today, we are announcing our decision to ensure the San Jacinto site is cleaned up for the benefit of the entire community," Pruitt, the EPA administrator, said in a press release. "As exemplified today, EPA is prioritizing Superfund clean-up by making decisions in a decisive, timely manner."
So a decision has officially been made.
It's been a long time coming. The San Jacinto Waste Pits were packed full of toxic sludge, including dioxin, a known carcinogen, from the runoff from a paper mill in the 1960s. The pits were full by the end of the decade and were then largely forgotten over the following years — U.S.Representative Gene Green noted that there were higher levels of dioxin in the area going back to the 1980s, although nobody knew for sure where the dioxin was coming from.
And then, after decades of being forgotten, the waste pits were "discovered" by the EPA in 2005 and the spot was turned into a Superfund site, designated for cleanup, by 2008.
In 2011 the companies on the hook for polluting the site, Champion Paper, McGinnis Industrial Maintenance and Waste Management Inc., placed a temporary $9 million cap on the pits. Before the cap was even completed, company officials were already hoping to talk the EPA into allowing them to simply make the cap permanent by reinforcing it and putting more rock on top.