The Environmental Protection Agency says it has recovered 517 containers of "unidentified, potentially hazardous material" from highly contaminated toxic waste sites in Texas that flooded last month during Hurricane Harvey. The agency has not said which Superfund sites the material came from, why the contaminants at issue have not been identified, and whether there's a threat to human health. The one-sentence disclosure about the 517 containers was made Friday night deep within a FEMA press release summarizing the government's Harvey response, reports the AP. At least a dozen Superfund sites in and around Houston flooded in the days after Harvey's record-shattering rains. AP journalists surveyed seven sites by boat, vehicle, and on foot. The EPA said at the time its personnel had been unable to reach the sites, though they surveyed the locations using aerial photos.
The AP reported Monday that a government hotline also received calls about three spills at the US Oil Recovery Superfund site, a former petroleum waste processing plant outside Houston contaminated with a dangerous brew of cancer-causing chemicals. Records showed workers at the site reported spills of unknown materials in unknown amounts. Local pollution control officials photographed three large tanks used to store potentially hazardous waste completely underwater on Aug. 29. The EPA later said there was no evidence that nearby Vince Bayou had been impacted. PRP Group, the company formed to clean up the US Oil Recovery site, said it does not know how much material leaked from the tanks. As part of the post-storm cleanup, workers have vacuumed up 63 truckloads of potentially contaminated storm water, totaling about 315,000 gallons. (Read more Hurricane Harvey stories.)