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EPA, TCEQ Complete Removal of Contaminated Sediment at Donna Canal Superfund Site

May 21, 2020

DALLAS – (May 21, 2020) The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ) recently completed removal of nearly 14,000 cubic yards of contaminated sediment from the Donna Reservoir and Canal System Superfund site in South Texas. The sediment was removed from a half-mile section of the canal with the highest concentration of contamination from polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs). The PCBs found in the canal accumulate in fish tissue and are a health risk for people who eat fish from the canal.

“EPA, TCEQ and our partners are working to achieve the cleanup goals for the Donna Canal and Reservoir System as quickly and safely as possible,” said Regional Administrator Ken McQueen. “Completing the sediment removal and treatment is vital to finally restoring the site and making it safer for the South Texas community.”

"The removal of this massive amount of sediment is a crucial step toward restoring the site to its original condition and is just one example of the many ways TCEQ and EPA work together to clean up the Texas environment,” said TCEQ Commissioner Bobby Janecka. “We look forward to experiencing further progress as the work on this project continues."

The site, south of the city of Donna and near the border with Mexico, consists of a 400-acre reservoir and a system of lined and unlined irrigation canals and was placed on EPA’s National Priorities List of contaminated sites in March 2008. The sediment removal is part of the Record of Decision (ROD), the official plan for cleaning up the site. The removal process included dredging, drying and treating the sediment before taking it to an offsite disposal facility. Water drained from the sediment was treated and returned to the canal. About 13,780 cubic yards of sediment was removed and treated during this process. After completing the sediment dredging, EPA restored the canal banks and strengthened the banks with rock aggregate.

EPA created a video about the recent work:


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Since fish in the reservoir are still contaminated with PCBs, catching and consuming them are still prohibited activities (indicated by new signs placed around the site). PCB exposure, including through eating contaminated fish, has been linked to adverse effects on the liver and other organs, neurological effects, and skin rashes. As required under the ROD, EPA conducted a yearly fish kill in January 2020. EPA and TCEQ will continue assessing sediment and fish for contamination.

More about the Donna Canal and Reservoir System Superfund site:

More about EPA’s work in Texas:

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