Thirteen of the 41 Superfund sites in Texas were flooded and “experiencing possible damage” as a result of Hurricane Harvey, federal environmental officials confirmed Saturday.
The assessment, determined through aerial imagery, raised concerns about potential health risks as floodwaters carried the pollutants over a wider area, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency said.
The findings came shortly after the Associated Press reported that Harvey flooded at least seven of the highly toxic waste sites in and around Houston.
At a news conference Saturday, Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner called on the EPA to come “in town to address the situation.” He said he wasn’t aware of the flooding at the Superfund sites in time to inform President Donald Trump of the situation during the president’s recent visit to the region.
EPA officials have not yet physically visited the Superfund sites in the Houston area, saying in a statement that they have “not been accessible by response personnel,” the Associated Press reported. They were able to visit two locations in Corpus Christi on Thursday, they said, but found no significant damage.
However, reporters from the Associated Press were able to survey seven Superfund locations, including one that was accessible only by boat. They found the sites to “either be underwater or showing signs they were inundated before floodwaters receded.”
The EPA hasn’t explained why the agency’s personnel haven’t been able to tour the sites, the AP reported.
The U.S. petrochemical industry is in the heart of the Houston metro area, where more than a dozen Superfund sites reside that have been labeld by the EPA as some of “America’s most intensely contaminated places,” the AP reported.
San Jacinto River Waste Pits, which contains toxins linked to birth defects and cancer in the soil, is among the Superfund sites that were completely flooded.
Cleaning up Superfund sites is reportedly a top priority for EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt.