Toxic sites damaged by Harvey presenting health and environmental dangers

World Today

FILE – In this Aug. 31, 2017 file photo, a barbed-wire fence encircles the Highlands Acid Pit that was flooded by water from the nearby San Jacinto River as a result from Harvey in Highlands, Texas. (AP Photo/Jason Dearen)

At least 13 toxic waste Superfund sites in Texas have been flooded or damaged by Hurricane Harvey. The complete damage of flooding on the sites is unknown.

Superfund sites are polluted locations requiring a long-term response to clean up hazardous material contaminations. These sites are typically designated by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).

The EPA says its workers have not been able to safely access the toxic Superfund sites, but they’re ready to do so as soon as floodwaters recede.

According to the Associated Press, AP journalists used a boat to document the condition of one flooded Houston-area Superfund site and accessed others with a vehicle or on foot. The EPA did not immediately respond to questions about why its personnel had not done so.

Video of Associated Press tour by boat of several Superfund sites in the Houston area after Harvey:

The 13 affected sites contain industrial waste from petrochemical companies, acids, solvents and pesticides.

CGTN’s Sean Callebs has been covering the disaster and tweeted this image:

Fire and explosions began breaking out at the Arkema plant in Crosby, Texas, early Thursday, showing the first signs that facilities handling and storing deadly toxic materials were at risk of being breached.

According to Arkema, the flooding after Harvey caused the plant to lose power, which hampered their ability to store chemicals below a certain temperature.

Texas Gov. Greg Abbott said Sunday he expects the Environmental Protection Agency “to get on top” of the threat of possible water contamination after an Associated Press report of highly toxic waste sites flooded in the Houston area.

“The EPA is monitoring that. The EPA is going to get on top of that,” said Abbott, when asked on “Fox News Sunday” whether toxic floodwaters could pose a continuing health threat to Texas residents.

“We are working with the EPA to make sure that we contain any of these chemicals harming anybody in the greater Houston area or any other place,” he said.

Meanwhile, the mayor of Houston has ordered a mandatory evacuation for about 4,500 homes in the western part of the city.

The storm is expected to be one of the costliest natural disasters in U.S. history.

This story includes reporting from The Associated Press.