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HARRIS COUNTY, TEXAS – Four and a half years ago, Sherry Griggs saw the risk of breakaway barges on the San Jacinto River. She raised the alarm and no one with any power listened.
“I know that sooner or later I’m afraid one of them is going to hit that cap,” Griggs said. “We are going to back to day one as far as what we’ve been fighting for, getting this river cleaned up.”
Griggs’ dire prediction played out as remnants of Tropical Depression Imelda swept through the Houston area. A breakaway barge loaded with oil crashed into the Superfund site, containing 17,000 truckloads of cancer-causing dioxin waste.
The EPA is still gauging the damage and whether the collision triggered a significant release of the toxic material.
A 2015 study by the Army Corps of Engineers found a hypothetical barge strike could destabilize the entire toxic dump.
The barge that slammed into the waste pits was among nine that broke free during Thursday’s flooding. Two other barges struck and badly damaged the nearby I-10 Bridge.
Rock Owens with the Harris County Attorney’s Office says if an investigation reveals negligence, those responsible will face a legal reckoning.
Editor Note: Griggs quote is not a new soundbite. She passed away in 2018.