Harris County Public Health officials have warned a group of people who live near a Channelview Superfund site not to drink their tap water after dioxins were possibly detected in some private wells.

County officials, however, acknowledged that a laboratory error requires them to retest the water and the initial results from 100 private wells may prove to be incorrect. The second tests are expected to be conducted Thursday and results should be available in three weeks. In the meantime, health officials sent a letter dated July 1 to the residents near the San Jacinto Waste Pits advising them to drink bottled water until the second test is concluded.

The EPA has identified several hazardous substances in the waste pits, including dioxins, which are highly toxic carcinogens linked to numerous potential health risks including birth defects and cancer. Texas officials discovered the pits in 2005 along the river, between Channelview and the small town of Highlands. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency determined that tugboats pushed barges of waste sludge from a Pasadena paper mill to the pits for offloading and storage in the 1960s. Due to changes in the land and water flow over time, the waste pits have become partially submerged in the river.

This is the first time the county has tested the groundwater wells for dioxins at the site, raising questions about the adequacy of the cleanup of the contaminated area. Residents near the site and the San Jacinto River Coalition have been urging officials for years to test the groundwater.

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