Waste pits site requires additional attention after Hurricane Harvey
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) provided an update on the San Jacinto waste pits Superfund site.
Once EPA signs the Record of Decision for the San Jacinto Waste Pits Superfund site, it will use the special negotiation procedures found in Section 122(e) of the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation and Liability Act (CERCLA, commonly known as Superfund) to facilitate a settlement between the Potentially Responsible Parties (PRPs) and EPA for implementation of the selected response action.
Pursuant to Section 122(e), EPA will send special notice letters to the PRPs, which will trigger a 60-day moratorium on certain EPA response activities at the site while negotiations commence. During this 60-day moratorium, EPA will not begin response action at the site, although EPA reserves the right to take action at the site at any time should a significant threat to the human health or the environment arise. If, after 60 days, the parties provide EPA with a good-faith offer to conduct or finance the response action and reimburse the EPA for its costs incurred to date, EPA will extend the negotiation period for another 60 days. If settlement is reached between EPA and the PRPs, the settlement will be embodied in a Consent Decree for Remedial Design/Remedial Action. Because a Remedial Design/Remedial Action Consent Decree is a highly complex agreement, the period for negotiation after receipt of a good-faith offer often extends longer than the additional 60 days.
Once EPA and U.S. Department of Justice approve the consent decree, it will be lodged in federal court for judicial approval. If a timely settlement cannot be reached, EPA may take appropriate action at the site, which may include either of the following options: (1) issuing a Unilateral Administrative Order to the PRPs under Section 106(a) of CERCLA, requiring the parties to perform the remedy described in the Record of Decision; or (2) funding the remedial action and pursue a cost recovery claim under 107 of CERCLA against the PRPs. If the recipients of a Unilateral Administrative Order refuse to comply with the order, EPA may pursue civil litigation against the recipients to require compliance. Once either a Consent Decree or a Unilateral Administrative Order is in place, the PRPs must develop work plans for construction of the remedy and for protection of the public during construction. Next, a contractor must be selected subject to review by EPA prior to mobilizing for construction. As a result, there will likely be a period of about two years or more following the signing of the Record of Decision before physical construction of the remedy begins at the site.
EPA announced the San Jacinto Waste Pits site requires additional follow up following Hurricane Harvey. EPA received preliminary data from sediment samples collected by EPA’s dive team from 14 areas at the San Jacinto Waste Pits Superfund site on Sept. 28, 2017. Samples from one of the 14 areas confirmed the protective cap had been damaged and the underlying waste material was exposed. The sample showed dioxins above 70,000 ng/kg; EPA recommended clean up level for the site is 30 ng/kg. The EPA dive team’s final report and quality-assured sample results have been posted online. Repairs to add armored rock to the cap were completed shortly after the sampling was conducted. All repairs are complete. EPA directed the potentially responsible parties to collect additional samples near the damaged area, and sampling was completed last week. Six additional samples were collected. Sample results will be available in about two weeks. The potentially responsible parties will be on-site replacing the security cameras this week. On Oct. 11, 2017, EPA announced the cleanup plan to address highly toxic dioxin contamination at the San Jacinto Waste Pits Superfund site.