Captured on SundayÂ between bands of Harvey downpour by an enterprising drone photographer hunkering in Friendswood, the video aboveÂ includes a quick pan over theÂ Brio Superfund siteÂ south of Beamer Rd.Â near the intersection with Dixie Farm Rd. The former chemical facility, once at the heart of both the long-goneÂ Southbend neighborhood and of the series of lawsuits filed by Southbend residents over contamination-relatedÂ birth defects and illnesses,Â makes its cameo aroundÂ minute 3, as the drone passesÂ over a waterlogged Exxon Mobil stationÂ and rotates from south to east down Beamer toward the San Jacinto College South Campus.
Might floodwaters flowing across the Brio site and all thoseÂ other Superfund spots dotting the local map have stirred upÂ toxin-laced sedimentsÂ and spread them around?Â (Texas A&M Galveston scientist Wes Highfield was worried enough about the possibility to attempt a mid-flood outingÂ from his home to try to get some waterÂ samples.)Â In the video, the Brio site appears to be a little less waterlogged than some of its surroundings — including the adjacent section of Beamer Rd., shown picking up a bit ofÂ kayak traffic —Â but likely got washed over by aroundÂ 42 in. of rainÂ altogether in the past week.
In a follow-up drone run flown on Wednesday, the site (making an appearance about 2-and-a-half minutes in) looks like it might have dried off a bit:
Weather permitting, an area along the edge of theÂ San Jacinto Waste Pits Superfund site under the I-10 East bridge should be getting around 800 cubic feet of new rocks piled onto it this week and next, according to this month’sÂ EPA updateÂ on the project. The agencyÂ asked International Paper and McGinnis (which might be on the hook financially for much of the finalÂ cleanup) to cover up some recently-discovered areas of the nearby riverbed that were scouredÂ as deep as 8 feet in some places by this spring‘s torrential flooding; the tarp-with-rocks-on-it armored cap itself doesn’t appear to have been damaged, but the EPA says the extra rocks will help ensure its continued protectiveness.
Yesterday the EPA released their recommendationsÂ for what to do about the toxic muck in the San Jacinto Waste Pits, after more than a decade of local and federal agenciesÂ poking and fishing around in the area (on either side of the I-10 crossing of the river). So far the Superfund siteÂ hasÂ been temporarily dealt withÂ by the 2011 placement ofÂ a pretty-much-just-a-tarp-with-rocks-over-it armored cap, which the EPA says has already been repaired at least 7 times; the document released yesterday notes, however, thatÂ disturbancesÂ at theÂ site caused by weather and previous nearbyÂ sand mining operationsÂ “could cause a catastrophic release of the highly toxic waste materials from the impoundments, if they remain in place.”
The EPA wants to remove aboutÂ 202,000 cubic yards of contaminated materialÂ (roughlyÂ enough to fill the floor of the Astrodome with a 13-foot-deep layer)Â but says it’ll have to be done carefully so as not toÂ accidentally stir up the waste into the surrounding river while trying to get it out; the removal would also probably take place in stages to avoid potentially exposing too much of theÂ wasteÂ at a time to storms or flooding. Here’s the EPA’s map of the 2 sites where the paper sludge was originally dumped in the 1960s — the (capped) northern area is outlined in blue and labeled Cap Site, while the southern site (outlined in yellowÂ and labled Southern Impoundment) is covered in part by the Glendale Boatworks building, next to Southwest Shipyard:
Another effect of the Memorial Day weekend and early June floods:Â the EPA says it has had to pause some ofÂ its latest study effortsÂ near the 1960s industrialÂ waste pits in the San Jacinto river (shown at the top looking a bit more submerged than usual on May 31, facing north from the I-10 bridge). New rounds of sample-takingÂ were triggered byÂ the discovery in December that the Superfund site’s armoredÂ capÂ (which is made of special tarp material held down by a layer of rocks) had a 25-ft.-long holeÂ where the rocks wereÂ missing. The EPA also notes that the damage was foundÂ within anÂ areaÂ of the capÂ whereÂ no tarp was actually initially placed, in light ofÂ concerns that theÂ rocks would slide off of it.Â
On your way home from checking out the new UT campus site, you might pass by 1 of the 6 Superfund sites located within Beltway 8 — but you almost certainly won’t notice. Just across the Sam’s Club parking lot from the former home of Astroworld, the Sol Lynn/Industrial Transformers site (tucked behind the brush-covered chainlink fence on the right, in the photo above) has no signage identifying it as a project on the EPA’s National Priorities List for cleanup. The little site at Knight Rd. and the 610 feeder is surrounded on two sides by an innocuous grassy lot:
Some zoomy conceptual renderings of the University of Texas’s coming Houston campus, centered on the largely undeveloped intersection of Buffalo Spdwy. and Willowbend Blvd., made their debut at last month’s Board of Regents meeting, where the intended purchase of land for the project was announced. Buffalo Spdwy. gently winds through the drawings of the new campus to a track and several baseball diamonds along Holmes Rd. (which runs horizontally across the top of the image above).
Although the images are only “concepts”, the pictures do provide a sense of how the campus might unfold: For example, that linear water feature shown at the center of the campus aligns with an existing drainage ditch on the property, and the 3 long, low structures in the foreground are good candidates for parking garages, which will be needed regardless of the new institution’s yet-to-be-decided purpose.
Existing residential communities and industrial parks are here rendered as sparsely-treed fields — the boundary of the land slated for purchase by UT currently houses several apartment complexes on the north side and the Orkin Industrial Surplus facility to the south.
But another conceptual rendering (this one looking northwest across Holmes Rd. towards the distant Williams Tower) shows the campus in place amongst some of its eclectic neighbors: