The EPA had already 1nade clear in a decision last fall that agency officials favored removing the waste over capping or dredging the pits, but it was unclear whether Pruitt, the new head of the agency for the Trump administration, would see things the same way his predecessors did. In fact, based on the general approach to environmental regulations and to-the-bone budget cuts being proposed under the new administration, it seemed highly possible the EPA would reverse itself on this.
But the people supporting removal have won out.
“We may never know the extent of damage fron1 Hurricane Harvey or numerous other storms, but at least the EPA is putting their best foot forward and moving in the only direction that upholds their mission. All 7 similar sites across the country have been removed- this can be done safely and we will remain engaged as a watchdog and advocate for our communities as this process moves forward.” Jackie Young, the founder of the San Jacinto River Coalition who has worked since 2011 to see the waste pits removed, stated.
The EPA’s final cleanup plan, called a record of decision, includes installing engineering controls such as cofferdams before excavating almost 212,000 cubic yards of dioxin contaminated material for disposal, which should allow construction crews to keep the area dry while excavating the waste material, according to the EPA’s release. A small amount of material will stay on the site where controls will prevent access, eliminate off site migration and monitor the natural recovery into the future.
Changes in the construction method will effectively eliminate any potential for spreading contamination to downstream areas, the release states, bumping the cost of removal from about $97 million to about $115 million, a price EPA officials consider to still be “cost-effective” and “representing a reasonable value for the cost incurred.”