Contractors for the responsible parties confirmed the armored cap over the San Jacinto River Waste Pits is stable after a barge landed on it weeks ago.
Under oversight by the Environmental Protection Agency, contractors completed probing on Sept. 25 around the area of the cap where the barge landed, which confirmed the berm and outer slope of the cap are intact and stable, according to Jennah Durant, EPA spokeswoman.
A barge landed on the waste pits after nine broke loose during Tropical Storm Imelda.
Another concern at the waste pits was a portion of the western cell of the cap that was opened before the storm as part of the pre-design investigation.
Because of rain, contractors were unable to weld the patch — a high-density polyethylene resin liner — before Imelda and instead placed sandbags on top and constructed a berm around the excavation site to protect it from the storm.
On Oct. 2, the high-density polyethylene liner was welded in place.
“The crew confirmed that the liner was in good shape and free of wear and tear,” Durant said.
Jacquelyn Young, executive director of Texas Health and Environment Alliance, was relieved to hear the liner was still in place.
“I know that area has been of great concern since it was opened and patched before Imelda made landfall, and I’m glad to hear the liner is still there and intact,” Young said.
Before the storm, contractors were in the midst of phase 2 pre-investigation work that required partially opening the western cell of the northern impoundment for limited excavation.
According to Gary Baumgarten, remedial project manager, part of the pre-design investigation is to test out techniques to treat water that contractors could come in contact with during remediation of the waste pits. To run treatment tests, contractors opened a portion of the western cell to collect contaminated water.
“We’re looking at normal water treatment techniques like dropping metals out and dropping solids out, but we’re also looking at a technique to evaporate water,” Baumgarten said at community meeting days after the barge strike.
The next step in the wake of a barge landing on the pits is to repair the buoy line, which is currently underway.
Durant said contractors completed the installation of all anchor blocks around the perimeter and installed 1,100 feet of buoy line that was salvaged from the original line.
“The Buoys along the entire eastern side along the channel have been replaced — up to about the mid-way point to the north of the impoundment,” Durant said.
Durant added that replacement materials for the remaining section of the perimeter line have been ordered but would likely be three to four weeks before it comes in and another two weeks before it can be placed.
However, Young and members of the San Jacinto River Coalition believe contractors should have had a surplus of material already on site.
“This is all stuff that should be kept at a nearby stockpile,” Young said. “Having to wait several weeks for materials is a prime example of why they need to be kept nearby.”
“It’s the EPA’s duty to protect this site,” she added. “And this is not the first time we’ve had to wait weeks for these simple materials used for protective measures.”