Advertisement
An aerial view of Houston showing the extent of flooding caused by Hurricane Harvey. Photo: AMFPhotography

The EPA’s Region 6 Environmental Services Laboratory in Houston, Texas will close when the building’s lease expires in 2020, according to officials with the American Federation of Government Employees.

The 41,000-square-foot facility employs about 50 people, serves five states (Arkansas, Louisiana, New Mexico, Oklahoma and Texas) and tests samples from the region’s numerous Superfund sites. The lab also handles testing for criminal cases.

The lab has served as a staging area in the aftermath of Hurricane Harvey, which caused severe flooding throughout the state of Texas. According to a report by the Houston Chronicle, employees have been tasked with performing water tests after the storm.

The Houston metro area has more than a dozen Superfund sites, many of which were affected by the storm’s flooding. The amount of Superfund sites make the region one of the most contaminated places in the country, according to the Associated Press.

Critics raised concerns about the proposed closure at a news conference held in Washington, which was called to protest potential EPA cuts. The high number of Superfund sites in the region, coupled with the significant contamination issues from flooding, demonstrate the need for the lab to remain open for years to come, critics argued.

The closest lab to the Houston metro area is 400 miles away, in Oklahoma.

David Gray, the EPA's acting deputy regional administrator for Region 6 confirmed via email to the Houston Chronicle that the lease of the lab’s building wouldn’t be renewed in 2020.

"We are looking at alternatives that will continue to provide the analytical services to support our mission critical work in the Dallas office," he said.

The lab is comprised of two teams – the Organic Chemical Analysis and Inorganic Chemical analysis groups.

The Organic Laboratory Team analyzes samples of water, soils, and oils for pesticides, herbicides, polychlorinated biphenols (PCBs), and semi-volatile compounds. The Inorganic Laboratory Team analyzes environmental samples for trace metals, mercury, and RCRA characteristics, according to the EPA.

The EPA currently has 37 laboratories located in 30 cities across the U.S. As part of Donald Trump’s presidential campaign, he vowed to cut the agency’s budget by nearly one-third.

Advertisement
Advertisement