HOUSTON (CN) – Citizen groups fighting the Environmental Protection Agency’s removal of a toxic waste site from a Houston riverbank were reportedly funded in part by Waste Management, a comprehensive disposal company ordered in October to pay $115 million in clean-up costs.
Court documents obtained by Houston’s Fox 26 reveal Waste Management and its subsidiary McGinnes Industrial Management Corporation quietly supported citizen groups, thought to be independent, that opposed the removal of cancer-causing dioxin from the San Jacinto River waste pits.
Waste Management funneled resources into groups pushing for containment of the toxic waste site instead of removal, according to court records. The company closely collaborated with groups such as Keep It Capped and Galveston Maritime Business Association, the documents reportedly show.
The connection had never been disclosed in public hearings, a detail that Jackie Young, executive director of the Texas Health and Environment Alliance, says is important for the public to know.
“For years we’ve wondered who’s really behind these groups. It was clear that they had big money behind them, but there was no transparency with these groups,” Young told Fox 26 on Thursday.
A spokesman for the Waste Management’s parent company said in a statement that the connection with the local groups had been for “community outreach efforts.”
“The companies do not believe that the community outreach efforts are relevant to the personal injury or property claims involved in the pending litigation,” the spokesman said, adding that Waste Management “continues to engage constructively with EPA in the remedial design phase of the selected remedy for the site.”
EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt signed a directive in October calling for International Paper and Waste Management’s parent company to remove 212,000 cubic yards of polluted soil from the site, a project the EPA said will likely take more than two years merely to break ground. Environmentalists applauded the move as rare victory.