Looming Closure Of Houston’s EPA Lab May Affect Post-Harvey Recovery Effort

The lab gathers information on areas contaminated by hazardous waste, some of which were impacted by Harvey’s floods.

By Alexandra HartSeptember 15, 2017 5:48 pm| ,

Houston’s Environmental Protections Agency lab is slated to shut down in 2020, raising questions about the future of Harvey recovery efforts in the area.

Bill Lambrecht of the San Antonio Express-News Washington Bureau says that in addition to testing the contents of the air and soil, the EPA identifies and gathers information on superfund sites – polluted areas that require long-term cleanup efforts to remove hazardous materials. Houston and the surrounding area are home to 41 such sites, sparking concern over possible chemical contamination amid the flooding. Officials say the 13 superfund sites flooded during Hurricane Harvey were not significantly compromised, but the contents of standing water that remains in those areas remains largely unknown.

Despite the recent announcement of the lab’s closure, Lambrecht says that talks to shut down the Houston branch began over four months ago. He says the decision is unsurprising after President Donald Trump’s campaign promise to cut the EPA to “little tidbits.” Lambrecht also cites to Trump’s choice to appoint Scott Pruett as the agency’s director. Prior to his appointment, Pruett sued the EPA several times when he served as Oklahoma attorney general.

Written by Rachel Zein.