State Officials Ignore Dioxin in Texas Waterways
Evelyn and Jerome Matula were still polka-dancing newlyweds in 1950 when they spotted a tiny, half-finished “dollhouse” tucked into a patch of woods along the San Jacinto River on Harris County’s eastern edge.
It seemed like a dream — a bluff out back offered panoramic views, and a sandy path wound down to the river, where their three children and later their grandchildren all fished. But now, the retired refinery worker and former educator, 91 and 88, fear that all of their kin were poisoned by carcinogenic dioxin in the fish and in the well water.
Decades ago, paper mill waste was barged down the Houston Ship Channel from Pasadena and quietly buried in a sand spit just across the river. From their bluff today, the Matulas can hear traffic on the busy Interstate 10 bridge and see orange buoys that mark the boundaries of a federal Superfund hazardous waste site established around those pits in 2008 that, after an agreement announced last month, is finally on the way to being cleaned up.
But dioxin damage already has spread far beyond the boundaries of the waste pits, an investigation by the Houston Chronicle and the Associated Press shows.
More than 30 hotspots —small sites where dioxin has settled — have been found in sediments along the river, the Houston Ship Channel and into Galveston Bay, the state’s most popular recreational fishing area, according to University of Houston research conducted from 2001 to 2011 and pieced together by the news organizations.
The affected areas are in waters alongside parks and residential neighborhoods with thousands of homes in communities such as Pasadena, Deer Park, Channelview, Baytown and Highlands. But none of those people’s wells or yards have been tested by state health officials.