Latest Sand Mine Breaches and Near Breaches

In the continuing saga of sand mining on the East and West Forks of the San Jacinto, I present the results of my January 20, 2020, flyover. I found three breaches and two near breaches between I-45 and the East Fork. See below.

Liberty Materials Mine in Conroe

Let’s start upriver on the San Jacinto West Fork near Conroe. These first two images come from the Liberty Materials Mine that the TCEQ cited for allegedly discharging 56 million gallons of white slime into the river.

In this photo you can see that road (upper right) has repairs blocking a previous breach. However, discharge continues to flow through the dike. This indicates potential structural instability that might jeopardize the dike in a major flood and cause another massive discharge.
A couple hundred yards away at the same mine, there’s so little road left, driving a car across it could cause collapse of the remaining dike. That jeopardizes safety of workers and the safety of drinking water. Only four or five feet separates a massive mining pond from the West Fork in the foreground.

There sure is a lot riding on that little spit of sand. If this one blows out, I pray the TCEQ and Attorney General goes after them for gross negligence. How could they ignore this?

Hallett Mine in Porter

The next two shots come from the Hallett Mine in Porter. They show the same issue from two different angles.

Looking toward the pond.
Looking toward the West Fork. Another portion of the mine lies on the far side of the river.

Abandoned Mine in Porter

This is the drainage ditch that parallels Northpark Drive before it enters the river. This mine appears to be abandoned. Regardless, sediment, seems to consistently wash out of it. This breach has been open for since 2015.

Triple PG Sand Mine in Porter on Caney Creek

The Attorney General is suing this mine for breaches that remained open for months after the May floods last year. Currently, the mine is operating (but not dredging) under a temporary injunction until the case goes to trial on June 22. While mine owners have closed other breaches on White Oak and Caney Creeks, this breach remains open. Technically, it doesn’t connect with with river until a flood. But during floods, photographic evidence shows that Caney Creek reroutes itself through the mine, raising pressure that causes dikes in other places to collapse.

The shot below shows headward erosion toward five pipelines carrying highly volatile liquids.

Such breaches and near breaches create a good argument for creating minimum setbacks for mines from the creeks and rivers that supply our drinking water.

Sadly, legislation that could have done that died in committee during the last session. But there’s always next year. I will continue to monitor how well the mines do until new measures can be reintroduced. Pressure is building throughout the state to control air and water pollution from aggregate mines.

Posted by Bob Rehak on 2/12/2020

897 Days since Hurricane Harvey

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