The San Jacinto River Coalition, one of the leading voices in the effort to remove the waste pits by the Interstate 10 San Jacinto River bridge, got an update on another neglected dump site that is less well known but closer to home for Baytown residents.
The organization had its holiday dinner Monday and heard from Rodrigo Cantu, an attorney with Lone Star Legal Aid, about that group’s efforts to raise awareness about the closed Liberty Waste Disposal landfill near the Baytown Area Water Authority treatment plant between McNair and Highlands. Cantu said the site was closed in the early 1980s. It was covered with a cap that has not been properly maintained, he said.
In March of this year, the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality visited the site, he said, and documented numerous deficiencies including some seepage locations on the cover.
He said there was also ponded water that should not be there, trees and shrubs growing on the cover, and hoof prints suggesting that the boundary of the property is not being maintained.
There is no indication that toxic materials have migrated to the nearby water treatment plant or fresh water canal.
Cantu said the owners of the property agreed in 1990 to create a trust to maintain the property, but state regulators who tried to follow up on that agreement were unable to identify the responsible parties.
TCEQ has now identified the responsible parties and started an enforcement action related to the site in October, Cantu said.
In addition to hearing about the landfill efforts, coalition director Jackie Young said the group celebrated some volunteers by naming four people to receive Archie Bickley Awards.
Bickley, who grew up fishing and skiing on the site of the San Jacinto Waste pits, was an avid volunteer with the organization before his death in 2017, Young said. He suffered from several different forms of cancer and referred to himself as a “poster child” for the harm the pits cause.
Two community volunteers were recognized: Greg Moss of Channelview and Pamela Bonta, formerly of Highlands.
Two reporters were also recognized for their work covering the waste pits: Gil Hoffman of the Star Courier and Christopher James, formerly of The Baytown Sun.