Houston seeks EPA help with flooded toxic sites

Associated Press

Washington — Texas Gov. Greg Abbott said Sunday he expects the Environmental Protection Agency “to get on top” of the threat of possible water contamination after an Associated Press report of highly toxic waste sites flooded in the Houston area.

“The EPA is monitoring that. The EPA is going to get on top of that,” said Abbott, when asked on “Fox News Sunday” whether toxic floodwaters could pose a continuing health threat to Texas residents.

“We are working with the EPA to make sure that we contain any of these chemicals harming anybody in the greater Houston area or any other place,” he said.

Authorities started a controlled burn Sunday of highly unstable compounds at a Houston-area chemical plant that flooded because of Harvey. Utility crews went door-to-door to shut off power and warn those still at homes in the western reaches of the metro area that more flooding was possible.

The Harris County Fire Marshal’s Office said in a statement Sunday the decision was made to take “proactive measures” to ignite the remaining trailers at the Arkema plant in Crosby.

Some people took a break from their cleanup efforts in the sweltering heat Sunday to worship on a declared National Day of Prayer, while others worried about looters and scavengers in storm-ravaged neighborhoods.

The Houston metropolitan area is home to more than a dozen Superfund sites, designated by the EPA as being among America’s most intensely contaminated places. The AP surveyed seven of them and reported Saturday that all had been inundated with water, in some cases many feet deep, raising the concern that floodwaters may wash in pollution.

Abbott said there will always be a threat of contaminated water whenever there is a flood situation.

“What people need to do is they just need to be very cautious in the way they respond,” he said. “Do things like wear gloves, wear a mask, wear clothing so that your skin is not going to brush up against what you’re cleaning.”

Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner said he was comfortable with the safety of Houston’s drinking water.

“Certainly, we would hope that the EPA would be on the ground now to take a look at those Superfund sites, to make sure that contamination is contained and limited,” he said.

Abbott appeared on Fox and CNN’s “State of the Union,” while Turner spoke on NBC’s “Meet the Press” and CBS’ “Face the Nation.”