The Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ) has assessed a penalty of $19,063 against the Texas Concrete Plum Grove Plant at 7530 FM1010 in Cleveland, TX. The complaint stems from three incidents in 2019 and alleges unauthorized discharge of 40 million gallons of process wastewater; failure to keep proper and accurate water sampling records; and lack of soil stabilization at the site before abandonment. The complaint also alleges that one breach in the mine’s dike was 20-feet wide.
Terms of “Proposed Agreed Order”
A “Proposed Agreed Order” dated April 14, 2020, spells out the basis for the alleged violations. Such orders represent a way for both Texas Concrete and the TCEQ to avoid the cost of litigation. The goals of the order: to reach a fair settlement under Texas law and force Texas Concrete to take corrective actions.
Unless Texas Concrete signs the order and pays the fine within 60 days, TCEQ will forward the case to its litigation division. The settlement offer then becomes void.
More Recent Alleged Violations
The enforcement action is in addition to a more recent investigation launched on April 28th of this year. The investigation alleged unauthorized discharge of water and lack of stabilization at the site. A TCEQ letter in response to an inquiry by State Representative Dan Huberty indicated that the investigator could not gain access to the site because no one was there. However, the investigator made limited visual observations from the property boundary. No processing activity was noted. There is no signage. And portions of the Site appear overgrown with vegetation.
The letter also indicates that TCEQ has tried to contact the site’s owner to gain access to the property for a proper investigation.
However, all communication efforts since April 28 have been unsuccessful.
Case Demonstrates Need for Performance Bonds for Reclamation
Calls to Texas Concrete’s headquarters in Houston by ReduceFlooding.com received a similar response. The person answering the company phone claimed they had no plant in Plum Grove. The person also said that she had never heard of Mr. Somaiah Kurre, the person listed as President of Texas Concrete Sand and Gravel, Inc. on the company’s permit. The phone of the plant’s manager had been disconnected.
The company’s web site indicates the Plum Grove Plant is still in operation, even though equipment on the site has not moved since December 1, 2019.
Ironically, Pit & Quarry magazine, and industry trade publication, featured the Texas Concrete Plum Grove Plant as a model for how to adapt to change. The article was dated January 16th of this year.
In the meantime, the plant represents a safety hazard to area children. The gate presents no real barrier to someone intent on trespassing. Pits on such mines can be 90 feet deep according to industry sources. And perimeter roads often collapse.
Such problems underscore the difficulty of getting operators to reclaim a mine when it becomes unprofitable. That’s why Texas should establish performance bonds that guarantee reclamation before the State grants a permit to begin mining.
“We will make sure they fix this,” said State Rep. Huberty. Huberty’s staff is already drafting more sand mining legislation for the session next year.
Posted by Bob Rehak on 5/7/2020
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