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Houston Flooding Stirs Up Soil Contamination?

After the flooding from Hurricane Harvey drains way Houston could be facing a huge Environmental Disaster due to contaminated soil being dispersed.

Houston, Texas (traditionally a Republican controlled political area) currently has almost zero zoning laws and light-to-nonexistent environmental regulation and perhaps because of that fact the area hosts one of the USA’s largest oil refining and petrochemical areas.

Houston Flooding

Many parts of Texas (like Houston) are subject to flooding.

What happens when that area gets flooded due to strong storms or Hurricanes?

The Houston area has a long history of oil production and storage and thus has suffered more than its fair share of soil contamination over the years.

20 miles SE of Houston is the 58-acre Superfund site of Brio Refining located in Harris County that had refined crude oil there (starting in 1957) and various owners had stored styrene tars in 24 open pits, which along with various waste products and sludges contaminated a lot of soil and ground water. That area drains into Clear Creek and from there through Clear Lake and into Galveston Bay. The Brio Superfund site eventually had an entire subdivision of homes bulldozed because the soil was so contaminated.

More recently Houston’s Green Line light rail METRO had to halt underground expansion due to gasoline contaminated soil found near Houston’s East End. Houston’s METRO feared the cancer-causing chemicals could spread if it builds a tunnel and disturbs the soil which could adversely affect drinking water and property values.

According to the Houston Chronicle: METRO soil samples (from mostly north of Harrisburg Blvd and west of Hughes St) indicated the presence of benzene, a cancer-causing material, at 1,400 times the allowable levels for safe discharge into the local water supply. MTBE, a byproduct of gasoline that federal officials say is potentially cancerous, is present in some spots at 1,000 times the allowed limit.

Texas Soil Contamination map

Texas Soil Contamination areas

Noteworthy: The Houston area was home to gas/petrol stations going back 75+ years, many of which have long since vanished. The owners of said stations had no city requirement that required the tanks to even be registered until 1986. Many of those old gasoline tanks are now leaking: benzene, Methyl tert-butyl ether (MTBE), lead, and toxins into the soil and ground water.

Some Reference links:
www.houstonchronicle.com/news/transportation/article/Contaminated-soil-sinks-Metro-underpass-plans-for-5219781.php

www.click2houston.com/news/soil-contamination-causes-controversy-during-metrorail-expanison

www.stateimpact.npr.org/texas/2014/03/21/mapped-groundwater-contamination-in-texas/

www.hcfcd.org/media/1303/clear-creek-watershed.pdf

 

Green-Eco-EV News Reporting by Ken Green Burridge

kenneth green burridge Kenneth Burridge test-drives electric Nissan LEAF in Melbourne Australia

EV of the Year Judge, independent green journalist, photographer, author and sustainability activist that has published over 1000 articles. Mr Burridge’s travels have taken him to over 40 countries and 300+ major cities. He is originally from the USA, but has been residing in Australia for the last seven years. Connect to Ken Burridge on: Twitter, facebook, Google+Linked in or website

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