Multiple highly contaminated sites in Houston, TX have not been checked by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) in the wake of Hurricane Harvey to see if they pose a risk to human health and safety.
The Associated Press said Saturday that it is aware of more than a dozen so-called “Superfund” sites — the most highly contaminated places in the United States — in the region hit by Harvey that could be spreading toxic chemicals and highly poisonous industrial byproducts into the air and water unchecked.
“The Highlands Acid Pit site near Chandler’s home was filled in the 1950s with toxic sludge and sulfuric acid from oil and gas operations. Though 22,000 cubic yards of hazardous waste and soil were excavated from the acid pits in the 1980s, the site is still considered a potential threat to groundwater, and EPA maintains monitoring wells there,” wrote the AP’s Jason Dearon.
“The Associated Press visited seven Superfund sites in and around Houston during the flooding. All had been inundated with water; some were only accessible only by boat,” he said.
EPA spokeswoman Amy Graham could not provide details about when inspectors would be able to reach the sites and check them for spills or spreading contamination. She did say that inspectors checked two Superfund sites in Corpus Christi, TX and found that they were safe.
The fire at the Arkema Chemical plant in Crosby, TX has commanded the attention of the world and most of the EPA’s available staff in the region. The company still has not disclosed all of the chemicals on the site nor provided a map or diagram of where substances were located at the plant.
Arkema is allowed to ignore requests for disclosure under a law created by Republican legislators after the explosion at the chemical plant in West, TX. The legislation allows companies to operate in secrecy regarding what specific dangers nearby residents could face.
The AP said that the dangers posed to residents in the area of toxic sites can vary.
“The threats to human health and wildlife from rising waters that inundate Superfund sites vary widely depending on the specific contaminants and the concentrations involved,” wrote Dearon. “The EPA report specifically noted the risk that floodwaters might carry away and spread toxic materials over a wider area.”