Last year, the flood during Tropical Storm Imelda washed out the sand supporting a natural gas pipeline running across an easement through the Triple PG Sand Mine in Porter. Luckily, Kinder Morgan (KM) shut the line down before anyone was hurt. KM then drilled 75 feet under the mine and spliced in a new section. But now Triple PG is mining over the new section, once again eroding the the public’s margin of safety.
Of course, it’s possible that the miners won’t get down to 75 feet. But TACA and some West Fork sand mines say they routinely mine 100 feet down.
Eroding Margin of Safety
Just as bad, they’re mining toward five pipelines carrying highly volatile liquids (HVL), potentially exposing them in the next flood, just like they were on the West Fork at the LMI River Road Mine.
Shortly before Harvey, the sand mine started mining next to the road cutting diagonally from top left to bottom right. Then, Harvey flowed through the mine, creating much of the erosion you see here.
Two years later, Imelda cut through the mine again, extending the erosion headward to the point where it could threaten the HVL pipelines in the utility corridor near the top of the frame above during the next flood.
Triple PG Already Operating Under Injunction
The sand mine sits at the confluence of two floodways and floods repeatedly.
On October 11, 2019, the State Attorney General at the request of the TCEQ, filed a temporary restraining order and temporary injunction against the sand mine. Repeated breaches of its dikes which had gone unrepaired allowed process wastewater to escape directly into the headwaters of Lake Houston. The issue even became part of the last Mayoral campaign when Tony Buzbee picked it up.
A Travis County Court set a trial date for 6/22/2020, but the trail has been delayed by COVID. Shortly after the Attorney General filed his suit, the owner of the mine, a cardiologist from Nacogdoches, tried to transfer ownership within his family’s companies and trusts.
The attorney general wound up suing all of them and the cardiologist’s attorney petitioned to withdraw from the case as counsel – a highly unusual move.
The case is still pending trial. Until then, the mine continues to operate under an injunction which prohibits it from dredging, but not dry mining.
2020 will certainly go down in history as the year of living dangerously. A miner trying to push his luck is just one more thing we shouldn’t have to worry about…especially when he’s sitting on top of a huge stockpile of sand that he has barely touched in months.
No one has died yet. Hopefully they won’t. But if they do, it won’t take long for a lawyer to argue negligence and triple damages for the Triple PG owners. Of course, they will then likely declare bankruptcy and tuck tail back to Nacogdoches.
Posted by Bob Rehak on 9/30/2020
1128 Days since Hurricane Harvey and 377 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.