Triple-P Sand Mine Breached Again; East End Park Destroyed for Second Time in Two Years

Correction: The head of Enforcement for the TCEQ notified me that there was a “proposed” fine of $16,875 issued to the Triple-P Mine for the May breach, but that they have not “settled” yet.

The East Fork of the San Jacinto River and the Triple-P sand mine took a terrible toll on Kingwood’s East End Park for the second time in two years during Imelda. Sand several feet thick blanketed about 30 acres of this beautiful ecological gem and the peaceful trails that wind through it. The devastation matched and in some cases surpassed Harvey’s. These pictures tell the story. After Harvey, it took hundreds of thousands of dollars to restore the trails and boardwalks in the park. It will cost at least that much again.

Carried Away

This bench on the Pelican Overlook Trail used to have about 50 feet of trail, trees and river bank in front of it. Imelda eroded the bank and the river cut away the land under the trail. The trail will now have to be moved inland. It no longer exists.

Blanketed by Sand

This boardwalk to Eagle Point used to go over pristine wetlands. It will now require excavation. Photo courtesy of John Knoezer.

Scoured by Flood Waters

Trail scouring occurred in many places. Large parts of the North Loop trail will require replacement. Photo courtesy of John Knoezer.

Taking Destruction to New Levels

This sign used to be chest high. Now it’s knee high. Photo courtesy of John Knoezer.

Giant Trees Uprooted

Trees are down in multiple places and block the main boardwalk. Photo courtesy of John Knoezer.

Covered Up

The main boardwalk is covered with a layer of ultra-slippery silt 1-2 inches thick. Photo courtesy of John Knoezer.

Under Water

In many places, trails have gone underwater. At this location, we found quicksand. See below.

Quick Sand

Rika, the safety pup, says, “Hmmmm. Lucky I don’t have to buy shoes.”

For your own safety and the safety of your shoes, do not venture into the park near the river. It’s dangerous as you can see. Quicksand even exists in some places.

Now for The Bad News

Much of this sand may have come from the Triple-P sand mine on Caney Creek, just upstream from East End Park.

Image courtesy of Charlie Fahrmeier, an expert in turbidity control. Photo taken on 9/22/2019.
Image of same breach on May 17th.
Location of Breach

Once again the mine breached its dike, underscoring the danger of locating mines in floodways. This particular mine sits at the confluence of two floodways: Caney Creek and White Oak Creek. During Harvey, it lost a major portion of its stockpile to floodwaters. Then it happened again.

In May 2019, Tony Buzbee, candidate for Mayor of Houston, witnessed another breach while on a tour on the San Jacinto to investigate sedimentation issues. I notified the TCEQ and they issued a Notice of Enforcement in August. But they did not fine the company. This makes the third documented breach in two years.

Wrong Type of Repair

It appears that Triple P dumped some sand in the breach in a feeble attempt to stop the hemorrhage. But it obviously did not hold for long. Fahrmeier, who discovered this latest breach on his Waverunner, is an expert in turbidity and environmental pollution control. He said that sand is the wrong type of material for repairing dikes and that the repeat blowout was predictable.

Fahrmeier said that as he was coming up Caney Creek, the stream of sediment coming from the mine made it look as though there were two different streams. “There’s still quite a bit of sediment flowing into the river as evidenced by the discoloration.  The pit is pretty large and no doubt contributed a significant volume of water and sediment flowing into Lake Houston since last week.”

KSA Repairs

KSA will begin initiating repairs on East End Park quickly. But many parts of the park are still not accessible. It may be months before all this damage can be repaired. In the meantime, please limit use of the park to the higher parts unaffected by Imelda and Triple P. No doubt some of this sand comes from river bed and bank erosion. But I believe a lot came from the mine, too. I hope KSA decides to sue the mine this time. It’s clear that they do not fear the TCEQ.

Posted by Bob Rehak on 9/23/2019 with images from John Knoezer and Charlier Fahrmeier

756 Days since Hurricane Harvey and 5 since Imelda

The thoughts expressed in this post represent my opinions on matters of public policy and safety. They are protected by the First Amendment of the US Constitution and the Anti-SLAPP Statute of the Great State of Texas.