After 2.5 years of examining photos and videos of the so-called “dikes” in sand mines, I have come to believe that some are designed to fail. In some cases, mines cause them to fail.
In most cases, the “dikes” are not really dikes. They’re just the edges of pits that miners have excavated. Or roads around the pits made of sand that easily erode.
And because miners mine so close to the river, when those pits fill with water, they overflow. The resulting erosion cuts channels between the pit and the river that allow the pits to discharge a portion of their wastewater. Lake Houston and public drinking water become collateral damage.
High Cost of Flimsy Construction
After the storm, miners throw some sand in the breach and wait for it to happen again. The sand creates only the appearance of a fix.
Month after month, I’ve photographed active breaches, “patched” breaches, and scars in the landscape from older breaches. Many reopen multiple times.
Breaches are so common that, in my opinion, they may be part of some miners’ business plans.
High Cost of Silt
If discharges consisted of plain water, I might not care. But the water usually carries silt with it. Miner’s settling ponds can fill with silt which has little marketable value. Flushing it downriver solves another problem.
Miners externalize their cleanup costs by foisting them off on an unsuspecting public. That sediment clogs rivers that must be dredged to avoid flooding. It reduces the capacity of the lake. And it escalates the City’s water treatment costs.
A retired high-level Public Works manager told me he routinely investigated and found breaches at sand mines during floods. In his opinion, many of the breaches were intentional and the floods created the perfect “cover” for the illegal discharges. “Blame it on Mother Nature,” he said.
West Fork Images from February Flyover
Below, a sampling of more than 1000 images I took on 2/13/2020. The first batch shows mines on the San Jacinto West Fork between SH242 and US59. I traveled NW to SE toward 59. I’ve arranged images in the same order.
East Fork Images from February Flyover
Posted by Bob Rehak on 2/24/2020
909 Days since Hurricane Harvey and 158 since Imelda
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.