TCEQ Alleges Fourth Unauthorized Discharge in 10 Months at Triple PG Mine

In March, published pictures of the Triple PG sand mine pumping water onto adjoining properties near White Oak Creek. The TCEQ investigated within days. Today, they reported their findings and issued a Notice of Enforcement for the unauthorized discharge of process water. The discharge also appears to violate terms of the Attorney General’s injunction against the mine and could result in the AG seeking additional fines up to $25,000 per day for discharges at apparently lasted three months.

Mine process wastewater flooding neighboring properties in upper right. Picture taken Jan 20, 2020.
Mine process wastewater flooding neighboring properties in foreground. Picture taken Feb. 13, 2020.
Triple PG wastewater on neighboring properties on March 6, 2020. See water in strip of trees in front of stockpile.

TCEQ Report on Compliance Investigation

TCEQ observed process water outside Triple PG’s property boundary and concluded, “The allegation of a discharge of process water was confirmed. As a result of the investigation conducted on March 11, 2020, one alleged violation was noted for failure to prevent the discharge of process water.” That was the fourth such finding in five years for the mine.

TCEQ says in part, “Because process water was located outside of the facility’s property boundary with a high likelihood to enter waters of the state, an unauthorized discharge had occurred.”

676% Higher Levels of Suspended Sediment than Creek Water

Wastewater was overflowing from Ponds Five and Six. Analysis of water samples showed that the overflow had levels of suspended solids in it that were 137% to 676% higher than the background level found upstream in White Oak Creek. That’s more than 2X to almost 8X above the creek water.

Discharge Not Authorized

Both TCEQ rules and the terms of the injunction prohibit any discharges of process water not authorized by the TCEQ.

The Notice of Enforcement issued by the TCEQ on 4/3/2020 cites, “Unauthorized discharge of process water: Specifically, during the investigation conducted on March 11, 2020, process water was noted outside the property boundary of Triple PG Sand Development Facility with the likelihood to enter waters of the state.”

Recommended corrective action? TCEQ simply says, “There shall be NO unauthorized discharge of pollutants.”

Additional Fines Possible

The Texas Water Code Section 7.102 allows fines up to $25,000 per day for each day of a continuing violation. See flooded neighboring properties above in January, February and March flyover photos.

That water was building up and flooding adjoining properties for at least three months. This could get expensive for Triple PG!

The Attorney General’s office did not respond yet to a request for comment about the type of penalties that it would seek, if any.

Fourth Unauthorized Discharge in Last Year

TCEQ has conducted eight other investigations at Triple PG in the previous 5 years. They included investigations into:

  • Failure to renew their registration
  • Alleged failure to maintain pollution prevention measures and controls
  • Failure to maintain a Stormwater Pollution Prevention Plan (SWP3)
  • Unauthorized discharge of process water (three times since May 2019)

This makes the fourth citation for unauthorized discharges in a year.

Editorial Comment: This mine just doesn’t seem to take the TCEQ, Attorney General, State of Texas or the health of their neighbors seriously. I hope the Attorney General shuts them down.

Posted by Bob Rehak on 4/6/2020

951 Days after Hurricane Harvey and 200 after 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.