Response to Gov. Abbott’s Comments on Toxic Sites Flooded by Hurricane Harvey

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Bay Scoggin

TexPIRG Education Fund


Comments from Kara Cook-Schultz, Toxics Director for TexPIRG:

“Texas Governor Gregory Abbott said Tuesday that state and federal inspections of hazardous waste sites and landfills in the Houston area have found no evidence so far of any leakage. While it is hoped that none of these sites are currently leaking any toxic chemicals, the Governor’s comments are premature.

“So far, Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ) officials have inspected only 5 of 17 state hazardous waste sites affected by Hurricane Harvey. One site, International Creosote, remains flooded and inaccessible to inspectors, and inspectors have yet to investigate the other 11 sites.

“Of the 13 federal Superfund sites flooded by Hurricane Harvey, federal officials have not yet inspected 8 of those sites. Also, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has not officially cleared the sites that have been visually inspected. At the San Jacinto Waste Pits, for example, the EPA determined that, while the berms capping the site appear to still be secure, there was a disturbance of the outer covering over the berms. It is premature to determine whether any leakage occurred.

“Finally, there are certainly concerns about chemicals that we know have spilled as a result of Hurricane Harvey. The city of Houston and the Environmental Protection Agency are currently investigating a potentially hazardous plume of a carcinogenic substance in a neighborhood after a Valero oil refinery reported its operations suffered hurricane-related damage. Valero’s disclosure to the TCEQ was one of 56 preliminary emissions reports citing Hurricane Harvey that the state commission received from companies so far.

“Governor Abbott’s comments are premature. Investigators continue to gather all available evidence to make sure than Texans, their homes, and their drinking water are safe. While we hope that the devastation wreaked by Harvey does not include the spread of hazardous waste, it is too early at this time to fully assess all the damage caused by this disaster.”