A review of the Texas, USA San Jacinto Superfund site and the deposition of polychlorinated dibenzo-p-dioxins and dibenzofurans in the San Jacinto River and Houston Ship Channel

Environ Sci Pollut Res Int. 2016 Dec;23(23):23321-23338. doi: 10.1007/s11356-016-7501-8. Epub 2016 Sep 24.


The San Jacinto River (SJR) waste pits that lie just under the 1-10 overpass in eastern Harris County east of Houston, Texas, USA, were created in the 1960s as dumping grounds for paper mill waste. The deposition of this waste led to accumulation of highly toxic polychlorinated dibenzo-p-dioxins and dibenzofurans (PCCDDs/PCDFs) over the course of several decades. After abandonment, the waste material eventually became submerged under the waters of the SJR, resulting in widespread environmental contamination that currently constitutes a significant health concern for eastern Harris County communities. The original waste pits were rediscovered in 2005, and the San Jacinto waste site is now a designated EPA superfund site. The objective of this review then is to discuss the history and current state of containment around the San Jacinto waste pits and analyze spatial and temporal trends in the PCDD/PCDF deposition through the SJR system from the data available. We will discuss the current exposure and health risks represented by the Superfund site and the SJR system itself, as well as the discovery of liver, kidney, brain (glioma), and retinoblastoma cancer clusters in eastern Harris County across multiple census tracts that border the Superfund site. We will also cover the two primary management options, containment versus removal of the waste from the Superfund and provide recommendations for increased monitoring of existing concentrations of polychlorinated waste in the SJR and its nearby associated communities.

Keywords: Bioremediation; Dioxins; Furans; San Jacinto River.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Dibenzofurans / analysis*
  • Environmental Monitoring
  • Polychlorinated Dibenzodioxins / analysis*
  • Soil Pollutants / analysis*
  • Texas
  • Waste Disposal Facilities
  • Waste Management*
  • Water Pollutants, Chemical / analysis*


  • Dibenzofurans
  • Polychlorinated Dibenzodioxins
  • Soil Pollutants
  • Water Pollutants, Chemical