Tag Archive for: cyanobacteria

Triple PG Mine Case Extended While Mysteries at Mine Deepen

Mysteries at the Triple PG mine in Porter are deepening. In the 19 days before I took the pictures below, we got 0.63 inches of rain at the closest official rain gage (East Fork and FM1485). During that time, the temperature soared into the nineties almost every day and wastewater inside the Triple PG mine got lower. One pond has even almost disappeared. Yet, water outside the mine on neighbors’ properties got even higher. I cannot understand how this works.

Mysteries Defy Logic, Explanation

Dr. Guniganti, the cardiologist from Nacogdoches who owns the mine, must be a genius. He’s managed to construct a parallel universe – in Porter of all places. Porter now rivals Roswell and Area 51 as centers of paranormal activity.

In this parallel universe, Dr. Guniganti can make wastewater magically disappear.

Yet in another display of Dr. Guniganti’s magical prowess and beneficence, the good Doctor makes water fall from clear-blue skies to drench his neighbor’s properties free of charge.

No wonder the community has dubbed him, “Guniganti, the Guy Who’s Got It Going.” At first, I thought neighbors bestowed that phrase on Guniganti for his talent to keep trucks running all night long under the cover of darkness…even as he operated under an injunction by the State’s Attorney General.

The Phlegm of Legend

They used to write ballads about immortals like Guniganti. He’s right up there with Pancho Villa, the Mexican general who inked a deal with a Hollywood studio to film his men in battle for 20% of the gross.

Guniganti’s also going for the gold. He will not be outdone by Pancho Villa, Ray or Egon. I can see the headlines already:

  • Sandman Takes on Texas
  • It Ain’t Dumping Unless They Catch You
  • Man Saved by Covid

The last headline refers to the fact that Guniganti’s case was supposed to go to trial this week. But of course, it didn’t due to the pandemic and some last-minute filings. No telling what those last minute filings are; the Travis County Clerk says it may take up to two weeks to email the documents.

Pictures of the Paranormal

In the meantime, here are more pictures of the paranormal.

Notice how low the water is in Triple PG’s main process wastewater pond (blue/green). The blue/green color is likely due to high chloride levels in the waste water or cyanobacteria.
This strip of property adjacent to the mine is owned by other people. Note how high the water is after two weeks of mostly 90 degree days and less than 2/3rds of an inch of rain. It’s a miracle!
Compare the height of ponding water on each side of the road. Water is almost overflowing from the neighbor’s property back into the wastewater pond.
Water in the next pond over is even lower. It’s almost gone. Guniganti appears to be draining the pond in the foreground so that he can “dry mine.” An injunction has idled his dredge. But how did that water get so low? Where did it go? Can Guniganti make water evaporate in different ponds at different rates?
Next to that same pond, by Caney Creek (foreground), a trail of water of various hues leads down from the mine after weeks without rain.

Great Leaping Pond Scum!

Can Guniganti really have the power to make water evaporate from different ponds at different rates? How did water form puddles on the side of that hill? Did water leap out of this mine over the road? Or is Guniganti causing it to flow uphill from Caney Creek using anti-gravity powers?

A former high-level Public Works executive for the City of Houston suggested miners sometimes pump water over the side of their dikes at night.

But I can’t believe an immortal with paranormal powers like Guniganti would need a mechanical assist. Move over Roswell. We need Hollywood to investigate.

Posted by Bob Rehak on 6/27/2020

1033 Days since Hurricane Harvey and 282 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.

Triple PG Sand Mine Turns Blue-Green

Aerial photos of the Triple PG sand mine in Porter taken on April 21, 2020, showed several of the ponds turning a bright blue/green (cyan).

Expert Believes Color Not Due to Cyanobacteria

A retired water-quality expert, who used to work for the City of Houston and who wishes to remain anonymous, reviewed the photos. He felt cyanobacteria, similar to the type reported in February on the West Fork San Jacinto, did NOT create the color . “You don’t see the subtle layering common with cyanobacteria,” he said.

Bright blue/green pond in foreground is part of Triple PG’s wastewater pit.

Likely Cause is Chloride Buildup

What is it then? “When you wash sand and gravel,” he said, “you often get very blue water. Most times it is high in chlorides. The chlorides discourage bacterial growth, or for that matter any life. The water is just too salty.”

Sand going to a big “washing machine.” The wastewater is then channeled to…
…a pond where silt settles out of the chloride-laden wastewater. Over time, the chloride concentration builds up and causes water to change color.

“Once a mine’s ponds get super saturated, they are no use to miners. That’s because they can’t wash the sand and gravel clean any more and they have to get rid of the water.”

Water-quality expert

“If it’s not chloride free,” he continued, “they can’t sell the sand because the chlorides will attack steel, such as rebar and girders, used to reinforce concrete. They also have to wash the sand used for pipeline bedding. If it’s not chloride free, the chlorides will attack the steel in the pipe over time.”

A construction manager for a major Houston refinery confirmed that chloride pitting and chloride cracking are indeed major concerns for pipelines. Not even stainless steels are immune.

Another part of the main wastewater pond at Triple PG mine

Saltwater Once Covered Entire Area

Where did the chlorides come from? The water-quality expert said, “This was a marine environment at one time, covered by saltwater. Over time, evaporation concentrated the chlorides and they were trapped by a confining layer…probably clay. Now that they are mining and washing material, the chlorides are the only thing left,” he continued.

“We used to see mines create dikes that were designed to fail in the event of a flood or heavy rain. If the chloride concentration got too high before a rain event, they would simply pump the salty water over the dike at night. Then they would replace it with fresh water and start the washing process over again. Dilution is the solution to pollution.”

Rapidly Changing Color Could Reveal Unauthorized Discharge

“If you continue to monitor this mine and the color disappears overnight, it’s a problem,” said the water-quality expert. That’s what I used to see often. The pond would become saturated and no longer usable. Then they would flush it out and it was usable again.”

The Triple PG mine currently operates under a temporary injunction and heightened scrutiny.

Triple PG Plagued by Legal Troubles

The State Attorney General is suing the Triple PG mine for unauthorized discharges of process water and dikes that remained open for months.

The mine sits near the confluence of White Oak and Caney Creeks. A TCEQ investigation found that two breaches in the mine’s dikes – one facing each creek – allowed the water from one creek to wash through the pit and into the other creek.

A Travis County judge set the trial date for June 22, 2020.

Flimsy Fixes to Other Dikes Remain

While the mine waits for trial, it has sealed those two breaches. But other prior breaches sport flimsy fixes that could wash out in the next large rain and discharge this water into the surrounding creeks. The mine has also been photographed pumping wastewater onto neighboring properties.

On 12/3/2019, I photographed the mine discharging waste water from what is now the blue pond onto neighboring properties.
Site of repeated breach into Caney Creek from Triple PG mine (background), photographed on March 3, 2020.
Site of another repeated breach into Caney Creek (left) from Triple PG mine, also photographed on March 3, 2020.

Potential Trouble Regardless of Cause of Color Change

Whether the color is due to high chloride content or cyanobacteria, it still poses a threat to drinking water. Chlorides would still need to be filtered out of drinking water pulled from Lake Houston. Cyanobacteria are worse. They often create toxins.

A World Health Organization (WHO) book called “Toxic Cyanobacteria in Water: A guide to their public health consequences, monitoring and management” claims WHO has found no documented cases of human deaths due to cyanotoxins. However, there have found many documented cases of animal poisonings. The most likely result of human exposure: dermatitis, “swimmer’s itch,” and severe oral and gastrointestinal inflammation. They also say cyanotoxins promote tumors in mice.

The Triple PG mine underscores the danger of allowing sand mines to operate in floodways and flush their wastewater downstream into the drinking water of 2 million people.

I will continue to monitor the color of the water to see if it changes rapidly.

Posted by Bob Rehak on 5/9/2020

984 Days since Hurricane Harvey and 233 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.

Pop Quiz: What Made This Water Turn Color?

West Fork Sand Pit photographed on 2/13/2020
Same pool shown within a larger context.

Multiple Choice Quiz

So what made this water turn color? This is definitely a hard one:

  1. TACA is promoting Sherwin-Williams.
  2. It’s a Slurpee® and snow cone waste pit.
  3. All the left-over food coloring that Randall’s couldn’t sell at 95%-off wound up here.
  4. The country of Gabon is advertising tourism.
  5. Cyanobacteria are taking over the pit.

And The Answer Is…

If you guessed D, you at least get points for knowing your flags. Gabon’s colors are blue, green and yellow. But you also guessed wrong. Gabon wouldn’t stoop this low.

The correct answer is E – cyanobacteria.

About Cyanobacteria

According to the TCEQ and Denise Wade at Harris County Flood Control, blue-green algae, also known as cyanobacteria, naturally occur in bodies of water. Blue-green algae have the potential to grow throughout the year. Blooms are seen more frequently during summer months in warm, stagnant, nutrient-rich water. Blue-green algae blooms can appear as in the photos above or even emerald green, blue green, pea green, red-brown, or white.

“The algae sometimes attach to sediment or plants at the bottom of a water source. Wind can even blow the algae onto soil surrounding the water source. If there has been a blue-green algae bloom, but it has collapsed (decayed), there may still be algal toxins in the water,” said Wade.


But it looks so pretty! Especially the blue part. Kind of reminds you of Cancun (if not Gabon). Don’t be fooled!

Cyanobacteria can be very dangerous. The World Health Organization has documented acute impacts to humans from cyanobacteria from the US and around the world as far back as 1890. While most human health impacts have resulted from ingestion, illnesses have also been attributed to swimming in cyanobacteria infested waters. Exposure to toxic cyanobacteria scums may cause various symptoms, including nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, mild fever, skin rashes, eye and nose irritations, numbness and general malaise. Some studies even suggest cyanobacteria may be linked to more serious illnesses.

NOAA warns that people often get sick by eating shellfish containing toxins produced by these algae if found in a larger water body; obviously, shellfish aren’t found in sand pits. However, the algae, they say, are often found in stagnant water which is found in sand pits.

The airborne toxins, says NOAA, may cause breathing problems and, in some cases, trigger asthma attacks in susceptible individuals.

According to Robin Cypher of the TCEQ, “Some strains of cyanobacteria can produce toxins (cyanotoxins) in concentrations that are harmful to humans, pets, fish, and wildlife. Cyanobacterial blooms can also produce secondary compounds which can cause taste-and-odor problems in public water systems.”

 “Cyanobacteria are a group of photosynthetic bacteria found in surface waters throughout the country,” says Cypher. “Similar to algae, cyanobacteria can rapidly multiply forming thick blooms, especially in warm, nutrient-rich waters.”

How to Report Cyanobacteria Blooms and Learn More

Sightings of fish kills or suspected harmful blooms can be reported to Texas Parks and Wildlife Department’s 24-hour communications center at 512-389-4848.

Sources of information about harmful algal blooms include:

TPWD Harmful Algal Blooms

USGS Harmful Algal Bloom (HAB) Science in Texas

EPA Cyanobacterial Harmful Algal Blooms (CyanoHABs) in Water Bodies

Safety Warnings

If you’re out hiking in the woods and you see such water:

  • Do not wade or swim in the water, especially near surface blooms.
  • Do not drink the water; avoid drawing lake water.
  • Do not let pets or livestock into or near the water; dogs are especially vulnerable to toxic cyanobacteria.

Now if someone asks you, “What made that water turn color,” you will know. And more important, you can warn them.

Posted by Bob Rehak on 2/24/2020 based on information from Harris County Flood Control

909 Days after Hurricane Harvey