Harris County Precinct 3 Commissioner Tom Ramsey has joined advocates with the Texas Health and Environment Alliance in asking the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to take immediate action to clean up a hazardous waste site in Cy-Fair.
Two decades after the shopping center at 11600 Jones Road, Houston, was declared a superfund site, a five-year review report released in September concluded the remedy for the site is “not protective.” Superfund sites are locations where hazardous waste has been improperly disposed of, resulting in risks to human and environmental health. Bell Dry Cleaners began improperly dumping dry cleaning solvents at the site in 1988 until it closed in 2002. According to the EPA, those chemicals contaminated soil and groundwater in the surrounding area.
At a Feb. 2 press conference, Ramsey said the recent report “should bring all kinds of alarm to people in the neighborhood,” and he urged residents not to drink groundwater sourced from wells in the area.
“There's not that many superfund sites in America, so when you live in a neighborhood with a superfund site, you need to treat it like it is something to be dealt with. I realize that switching from well water to public water supply may be a burden, but I urge you to spend the time, the money it takes to know what you're consuming,” he said.
As of Dec. 22, there were 1,336 superfund sites in the U.S. as well as 37 proposed sites and 452 that have been cleaned up and removed from the National Priorities List.
Community Impact previously reported the EPA installed a water line in 2008 to provide safe drinking water to homes and businesses in the affected area. At the time, about half of homeowners agreed to participate in the voluntary government-funded program.
The EPA has made efforts to clean up the site over the years, but some community members said that has not been enough. The THEA’s research shows childhood leukemia rates nearby are two times the state average, and many nearby residents may still be exposed to toxic chemicals in the water they use for cooking and bathing, Assistant Director Rachel Jordan said.
Officials with the THEA are calling for the EPA to issue a time-critical removal action and a long-term plan to address pollution at the site. This plan is an urgent remedy implemented when hazards pose too great of a risk to wait for the full approval of a cleanup plan.
“In the EPA’s most recent report, the federal government deemed the cleanup of this site not protective of human health, which means that toxic waste from this site is threatening lives at this very moment,” Jordan said at the press conference.
The THEA’s Cypress Community Coalition invites community members to the White Oak Bend Municipal Utility District facility, 10200 Autumn Meadow Lane, Houston, at 6 p.m. Feb. 7 to learn more about the site's status. The EPA will also host a public meeting Feb. 27 from 6-:7:30 p.m. at Bleyl Middle School, 10800 Mills Road, Houston.
“Sometimes the only way we get the EPA’s attention is if we show up and have a conversation. Sometimes they would like things to sit there and go unnoticed in terms of what's there,” Ramsey said.