Tag Archive for: Hueni

Triple PG Mine Scurries to Fill Breaches Day After Attorney General Files Lawsuit

Twenty-three days after Imelda and one day after the Texas Attorney General filed a lawsuit seeking injunctive relief, the owners of the Triple PG Mine in Porter finally took some action to seal at least one of the eight breaches in their dikes.

Photos Taken Saturday Show Start of Repairs

Josh Alberson took the photos below from Caney Creek around 11:30 a.m. on Saturday, October 12, 2019.

While there is now dirt in the breach, it’s not certain what kind. According to Alberson, it appears to be a mix of clay and sand.
If this is the same material used in the same way to plug the May breach, it will probably fail the same way in the next flood.

No Serious Attempt to Compact Materials

Alberson says he observed mine employees dumping fill in the breach, but that he saw no attempt to compact the material with rollers. They did tamp it down with the bucket of the track hoe, however. Here’s what it looked like at about 2PM Saturday from Caney Creek. Not very tamped.

Water in the foreground is part of the original May breach. Repairs from May and so far from September, focused on building a road over the breach that acts as a dam. Two hundred feet of woods once separated the mine from the pit. This “dam” or “dike” is now about 15 feet wide and barely above the water at the low point.

Compare Width of Road to Length of Total Breach

The photo below shows the breach in question before repairs. I shot it from a helicopter on 10.2.2019.

Photo of breach looking west into pit before repairs. Note the location of the island and the width of the road relative to the length of the breach between the pit and Caney Creek (bottom left). Then review the satellite image below from Google Earth taken in February.
Google Earth satellite image before breach in May. Yellow line represents approximate location of breach and measures 218 feet from pit to Caney Creek. Approximate width of repair is 15 feet, 1/14th the width of the original barrier.
Here you can see the width of the road at the end of work today (10/12/2019). Enough to accommodate one way traffic. A reader sent it to me.

Civil Engineer’s Impression of Repairs

Alberson’s brother is a civil engineer. He and another engineer I talked to both felt the repairs were inadequate. When asked what the repairs should consist of, Alberson’s brother suggested:

  • Temporary dam cut at river and in pit.
  • Pump out water.
  • Bring in 100% clay and fill entire dike and previous bank with clay in 1 ft. increments. 
  • Measure clay at its mining point for water content.
  • After each foot, add spray water, then allow to dry to achieve optimum clay cohesion.
  • Roll pack with smooth drum roller.
  • Repeat to needed height.
  • Add geotextile, large stone, and smaller gravel followed by grass on river and pit side.
  • Width and height of damn should be determined by vertical drop of pit and horizontal width (i.e., water pressure on dike). 

He said if they don’t “roll-pack” it, regardless of whether it is made of clay or not, it will fail.

Request for Required Engineering Docs

I requested the TCEQ to provide the engineering documents for the repairs that they demand, consistent with section 301 of their regulations for dikes and levees. Because of the weekend, they could not supply them immediately, but agreed to look and see if they existed.

Impact of “Dike” Failures on Families South of Mine

In the meantime, I interviewed three families below the mine today. They and physical evidence all indicated that water swept through the mine from north to south during Imelda. They said the MINE then flooded them before White Oak or Caney Creek rose. The water from the mine rose so quickly that:

  • One family narrowly escaped with their horses (unlike Harvey when one died).
  • Water covered a second family’s SUV in less than one hour. Their house – on 10-foot silts – took on two feet of water.
  • A third family fled early with their disabled daughter, only to find their home destroyed again when they returned. They also found their foundation undermined by the force of the water from the mine.

There really are no dikes between the mine and these families and dozens of others in their neighborhood. The road surrounding the mine is flush with ground level. It provides no protection when stormwaters capture the pit.

More on their stories in future posts. In the meantime, here are some photos of the heartbreaking devastation they suffered.

The back of Tom and Sherry Gills garage faces the mine. Just feet from the mine’s southern boundary, scouring was so bad that it undermined the foundation.
Shelley Portillo’s porch also faces the mine. Water went in one side of her home and exited the opposite side, leaving sand waves in her home.
Melissa Stowe’s back yard. Direction of flow came from mine and pushed construction debris up against tree line. Elevating her house ten feet after Harvey wasn’t enough. Twelve feet of water inundated her property.

Posted by Bob Rehak on 10/12/2019 with help from Josh Alberson and Charlie Fahrmeier

774 Days since Hurricane Harvey and 23 since Imelda

The thoughts expressed in this post represent my opinions on matters of public interest and safety. They are protected by the First Amendment of the US Constitution and the Anti-SLAPP Statute of the State of Texas.