A Quick Aerial Check-In Around Friendswood’s Toxic Brio Site, Swamped by Harvey

Captured on Sunday between bands of Harvey downpour by an enterprising drone photographer hunkering in Friendswood, the video above includes a quick pan over the Brio Superfund site south of Beamer Rd. near the intersection with Dixie Farm Rd. The former chemical facility, once at the heart of both the long-gone Southbend neighborhood and of the series of lawsuits filed by Southbend residents over contamination-related birth defects and illnesses, makes its cameo around minute 3, as the drone passes over a waterlogged Exxon Mobil station and rotates from south to east down Beamer toward the San Jacinto College South Campus.

Might floodwaters flowing across the Brio site and all those other Superfund spots dotting the local map have stirred up toxin-laced sediments and spread them around? (Texas A&M Galveston scientist Wes Highfield was worried enough about the possibility to attempt a mid-flood outing from his home to try to get some water samples.) 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 of kayak traffic — but likely got washed over by around 42 in. of rain 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:


Meanwhile, up the San Jacinto River under the I-10 bridge, no word yet on the status of the temporary-ish “armored cap” meant to keep the dioxin-laced muck of the San Jacinto Waste Pits snuggled into place on the channel’s edge. The cap was designed with a 100-year-storm event in mind, and has had to be repaired more than half a dozen times since its 2011 installation. (Hard to say how much water has actually flowed over the site , seeing as the closest upstream channel gauge shut down in the wee hours of Monday morning.)

Videos: Adam Rayburn


Superfund and Beyond

4 Comment

  • Texas A&M Clear Lake? Did something wash south from College Station?

  • @Survivor: Thanks for catching that! We’ve corrected it.

  • Thank you, Wes Highfield!

    John Danna, you suck. In a phone interview he said, “no testing from the water STILL DRAINING from the area had been conducted.”

  • I worked for an out of state law firm that was one of many that litigated the Brio EPA Superfund site. The horrifying stories of the cancer clusters ( Southbend subdivision drinking water was heavily polluted with toxic carcinogens ) plus the nightmarish birth defects coupled with the political push to buy out Southbend caused the EPA to install a long term remediation project there. Google map Black Hawk Blvd & Beamer Rd Houston Tx. The three large reddish dirt fields surrounding Brio are where the subdivision stood. The Brio dump pit was basically under what was the outfield of the baseball field. People were told to NEVER go over the fence for ANY reason. A special camera (cost about $250,000) was brought in to video the fumes emanating from the dump pits. Each class of chemical showed on the video as a different color. It was like watching ‘ Fantasia ‘. It was sad ,heartbreaking and maddening. Of course those companies and their successors are mostly still in business along /near the Ship Channel spewing BILLIONS of pounds of DEADLY,TOXIC poison into out air & water. And the Arkema plant in Crosby is a vivid reminder of what the chemical industry gets away with across the globe.