More Breaches Discovered at Triple PG Sand Mine; Implications for East Fork Flooding

The Triple PG Sand Mine on Hueni Road in Porter breached its dikes during Imelda in more places than originally observed. Despite the breaches still being open, and despite multiple investigations into the mine’s operations, the mine resumed business today. Trucks went in and out all afternoon. At the end of this post, I will discuss some of the implications of these multiple breaches and their possible contribution to flooded homes.

Second Flyover Reveals More Breaches

During my initial helicopter flyover on 9/28/19, I could only observe three breaches in the Triple PG Sand Mine dikes because of inclement weather. On a second flyover on 10/2/19, I observed several more. Other people discovered several more from the ground or boat.

Here’s what I saw from the air and ground. These pictures have been sent to State Representative Dan Huberty, the TCEQ and the Mine Safety and Health Administration in the Department of Labor. The TCEQ forwarded them to the Attorney General’s office.

Below: the approximate locations of breaches for orientation purposes. All aerial photos taken on 10/2/19.

Approximate locations of eight breaches in the Porter Triple PG mine during Imelda.

Breach #1

Partial breach along Caney Creek in the northern section of the mine, looking south toward the mine’s ponds.

Breach #2

Another pond in the far northern area shows evidence of a breach and severe erosion. This shot looks northwest.

Breach #3

Looking NW from over the main dike that separates the main part of the mine from the northern area. The dike cuts from the upper left toward lower right and has a massive breach. The angle of the downed trees suggests that Caney Creek overflowed on the north, swept through all the ponds to the north and then broke into the mine through this breach.

Breach #4

Partial breach. Hovering over Caney Creek in the foreground, looking west into the pit.

Breach #5

Hovering over Caney Creek in the foreground, looking west into the pit. This breach was opened in May and never closed properly.
Same breach, but photographed from the reverse angle. Hovering over the pit, looking east toward Caney Creek.

Breach #6

The southern dike of the mine is behind these trees. It obviously didn’t hold back water sweeping through the mine. It pushed these fences in from the north toward the south. Photo taken 10/6/19.
Many homes immediately below the mine flooded also. The so-called dike that runs along the southern edge of the mine is really flush with the ground level in this area. Photo taken 10/6/19.

Breach #7

Hovering over the pit looking toward the west dike of the mine and White Oak Creek, which breached into the mine.
Reverse shot. Looking east into the mine from over White Oak Creek.

Breach #8

The mine’s main stockpile sits on the western side of the mine. Rain seems to have washed much of it into the creek below the dike.

Direction of Flow

Note additional erosion to main stockpile. It sits at the confluence of two floodways: Caney Creek’s and White Oak Creek’s. You can see the influence of those two creeks in the erosion. This shot faces west. Caney Creek came in from the north (right to left). White Oak Creek came in from the west (top middle to left middle). Note the sand pushed up against the building. See close up below.
Sand pushed up against northern edge of building indicates the main flow came from the north…Caney Creek.

Sand Clogging River

Much sand now clogs the river that wasn’t there before Imelda. No doubt, some sand came from river bed and bank erosion. But it’s hard to believe that none of it came from the Triple PG Sand Mine, which sits in two floodways and whose dikes breached in at least eight places.

The shot below looks across the northeastern section of Riverchase. Many homes flooded in this area. When you look at the river, you can see a possible contributing factor: giant sand bars that consume two-thirds of the width of the river.

The breaches, the sand clogging the river, and the flooded homes all argue for moving mines back farther from rivers. Texas is the only state that has no minimum setbacks for mines. During Imelda, the East Fork and its residents paid the price for that policy.

Northeastern Riverchase, where several homes flooded near the river. Note giant sand bars just beyond the trees. Residents have commented on all the sand in streets. East End Park lies to the right of the giant bar. It also suffered from massive sanding during Imelda, in the area immediately opposite the bar.
A reverse shot of this bar shows that it is not only wide and long but tall. It reaches into treetops. The helicopter was hovering over East End Park for this shot and the camera is looking north.

Altogether, I took almost a thousand shots from the air last Wednesday along the East Fork between 99 and Lake Houston and from Lake Houston up the West Fork to the Woodlands. More findings in future posts.

Posted by Bob Rehak on 10/6/2019 with help from Josh Alberson and Charlie Fahrmeier

768 Days since Hurricane Harvey and 17 since Imelda.

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