HOUSTON (CBSMiami) – Ten days after Hurricane Harvey hit Texas, parts of Houston are still underwater. People in other areas have started the massive cleanup.
On top of everything else, a number of highly toxic superfund sites have been inundated and officials with the Environmental Protection Agency are examining their safety.
“You can’t have a garden or anything here. What concerns you the most about it? The dioxin, all over the area here,” said Linda Bonner in Channelview.
That toxic waste site is one of about five in the Houston area that were flooded and in the West side of the city, the trouble is far from over.
“The police came, knocked on my door and said you have 10 minutes to get out and there was a canoe waiting for me and my husband,” said Melissa Karen.
Manadatory evacuation orders are in place for about 300 people who live near two swollen reservoirs in West Houston that had to be released – inundating the neighborhood with a foul mix of water, sewage and fuel.
“More than a year’s worth of rain fell over several days. We’ve never seen the level of rainfall and never actually pooled water and retained it within the reservoirs to this extent,” said Col. Lars Zetterstrom with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.
Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner said the evacuations were necessary to ensure the safety of first responders. He added that nature wasn’t only to blame for flooding the area.
“In west Houston, those homes didn’t flood because of the rainfall. They are flooding because of the release of water from the reservoir,” said Turner.
Debris from the storm line streets thoughout the city. About 6,800 homes were destroyed, another 87,000 damaged. At least 46 people are confirmed dead.
National Guardsmen airlifted in bottled water to Beaumont where flooding overwhelmed the city’s pumping station, knocking out running water for days.
In Crosby, evacuated residents who live around the Arkema chemical plant were allowed to return after officials successfully ignited six trailers, burning off any remaining flamable chemicals.
Richard Long, with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, said intentionally releasing water from the reservoirs avoided a much larger catastrophe.
“A project is built to handle a certain size event and if you get an event bigger than that, something’s gotta give. And we had to make these releases to ensure the integrity of our project,” he said.
When asked about all the homes and business that flooded because of the releases, he said, “It hurts. It truly does. These are my friends and neighbors.”
Governor Greg Abbott said the financial cost of Harvey could be up to $180-billion.
House leaders have announced plans to vote Wednesday on a bill to deliver disaster relief.