Despite multiple reprimands from the TCEQ and a lawsuit by the Texas Attorney General, the Triple PG mine apparently continues to discharge process wastewater onto neighboring properties. Photos taken on 5/4/22 show those neighboring properties under water despite unusually dry weather and record heat recently. Those same properties were not flooded just days after Tropical Storm Imelda, which dumped more than 25 inches of rain on the area.
However, Triple PG denies allegations of unauthorized discharges.
Location of Isolated Neighboring Properties
Let’s first look at the location of the neighboring properties. Triple PG owns most of the property west of the mine with one notable exception – a strip of 20 properties isolated near the mine’s stockpile. See the map from the Montgomery County Appraisal District below.
History of Unauthorized Discharges
Back in March 2020, I observed that the Triple PG sand mine in Porter was discharging process wastewater onto adjoining property that the mine did not own. The Texas Attorney General had already sued Triple PG on behalf of the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ) for previous unauthorized discharges.
I filed a complaint with the TCEQ about the March 2020 discharge. TCEQ immediately sent an investigator to the mine. The investigator documented wastewater on the adjoining property. It was the fourth such alleged incident at the Triple PG mine in 10 months. Outcome? The TCEQ issued yet another “Notice of Enforcement” in April 2020 for the “unauthorized discharge of wastewater.”
But two months later, in May 2020, the wastewater on the adjoining property was higher than in the mine’s settling pond.
Dr. Prabhakar R. Guniganti, who owns the mine, didn’t seem to get the message. And pictures taken two days ago suggest he still doesn’t – despite the threat of a million dollar fine.
Compare Before/After Aerial Images
The image below, taken before discharges into this area started, shows the neighboring properties in question. They are the strip of trees between the foreground and background. Note how the land is not flooded, despite the fact that I took this picture just days after Tropical Storm Imelda, which dumped more than 25 inches of rain on this area. Also note the dense forest canopy.
Now, fast forward two years. Aerial pictures below taken on 5/4/22 show the same property – under water – despite only 4 inches of rain in the last month!
The new images also show most of the once-lush vegetation has died. All trees on the neighboring property adjacent to the mine are dead with the exception of one small copse on higher ground. And the water is blackish.
Hmmmm. Let’s see. Not flooded days after 25 inches of rain during Imelda. Flooded after 4 inches in the last month. Once healthy trees now dead. How curious! I wonder how that works. Judging from the healthy trees in the background, I’m guessing the mine’s wastewater may have had something to do with their demise.
Status of Legal Case
According to the TCEQ, the Attorney General’s case against the mine is finally moving forward after two years. Legal maneuvering delayed it when Guniganti tried to transfer ownership of the mine in an apparent attempt to shield assets from prosecutors. As a result, the Attorney General wound up bringing Prabhakar R. Guniganti (individually) into the lawsuit, as well as:
- Guniganti Family Property Holdings, L.L.C.
- Prabhakar R. Guniganti, as Director of Triple P.G. Sand Development, L.L.C.
- Prabhakar R. Guniganti, as sole manager of Guniganti Family Property Holdings, L.L.C.
- Guniganti Children’s 1999 Trust.
The AG contends that regardless of which legal entity owns the mine, they all lead back to the same man and they all had an obligation to ensure that process wastewater was not discharged into waters of the State.
The AG believes all entities above are liable for unauthorized discharges pursuant to Texas Water Code 26.121(c), which makes it unlawful to “cause, suffer, allow, or permit the discharge of any waste” in violation of the Texas Water Code.
…Into the Drinking Water for 2 Million People
During the next big rain, at least some of this will flush down White Oak Creek, which joins Caney Creek and the East Fork San Jacinto. Then, it will enter Lake Houston a little more than 2 miles downstream.
Lake Houston supplies drinking water for two million people. I’m not sure what’s in this water. But if it kills trees, it can’t be healthy for humans. It also can’t be healthy for neighboring property values.
Posted by Bob Rehak on 6/7/2021
1743 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.