A new investigation has revealed the locations of military installations both active and inactive that are hazardous waste sites. Sixty-two of them are in Texas, one right on the Houston ship channel.
The nearly 5,000 acre San Jacinto Ordnance Depot, active during WWII and the Korean War, according to Houston Public Media, is situated close to the ship channel bridge.
Over $300,000 has been spent assessing the site and on cleanup efforts, and the estimated date of “final cleanup action” is September 2084, according to ProPublica. Total cost of cleanup for the site is estimated at $6.84 million.
So what makes the site a hazard? For one, it was a weapons storage facility during wartime, so mustard gas is likely stored there.
“The DoD has declared it a site that has chemical weapons, so we know it has mustard gas at the very least. And that’s enough of a problem right there obviously. Mustard gas is associated with a variety of neurological disorders,” Bay Scoggin, director of the Texas Public Interest Research Group, said in an interview.
The San Jacinto Ordnance Depot was also used as a demolitions facility, which means there may still be chemicals like nitroglycerin on site. Adding to the danger those chemicals already pose, the site’s location on the ship channel increases the risk of it flooding, and those substances being released into the channel and surrounding communities.
A storm surge in the Houston ship channel is considered a worst-case scenario by environmentalists and officials for just that reason. So many refineries and petrochemical plants are near enough to the water that a category five storm surge hitting the channel directly would cripple them.
Several Superfund sites flooded during Harvey, including the San Jacinto Waste Pits, which reportedly leaked extremely toxic chemicals like dioxin into runoff water.