Whenever Houston floods, its petrochemical plants and refineries’ operations are of particular concern.
But another danger is flooding to the numerous Superfund sites scattered around the city, where toxic waste was commonly buried before the practice was abandoned.
Houston is home to one of the nation’s largest industrial refining complexes, especially along the ship channel, and repeated floods continuously bring worries of contaminants leaking into the environment.
As reported by the Associated Press (AP) on Saturday, five of Houston’s toxic Superfund sites were flooded in Harvey, with the possibility of contaminated sediment washing into nearby homes.
At the time of the AP report, EPA officials didn’t know when staff would be available to safely travel to the sites and evaluate the damage.
The sites in the report included findings on the Highland Acid Pits, featured above, which is considered an ongoing threat to the area’s groundwater due to all of the chemical sludge and sulfuric acid discharged there from oil plants.
Thousands of pounds of contaminated soil were removed, but the area remains a concern, and some of the chemical mud could be washing into people’s houses.
“My daddy talks about having bird dogs down there and to run and the acid would eat the pads off their feet,” 62-year-old Dwight Chandler, who lives nearby, said in an interview with the AP last Thursday. “We didn’t know any better.”
Events like the releases at the Arkema chemical plant in Crosby, Texas, 30 miles from Houston, highlight additional concerns over the effect of flooding on refineries and chemical plants.
As chemicals sit in damaged containers, more issues, like overheating the Arkema plant faced, remain a possibility.
Additionally, according to a Gizmodo report, over 400 people who took refuge at the George R. Brown Convention Center were treated for symptoms associated with contaminated flood water.
In an interview with Good Morning America, Texas Governor Greg Abbott said Harvey will require a “massive, massive cleanup process.”
Contradicting their alarming findings, the EPA is currently disputing the AP report on the sites.
This is a developing situation.
If you need or would like to help in Houston, read more here.