Tag Archive for: soil stabilization

TCEQ Levies $19,063 Fine Against Texas Concrete Plum Grove Plant

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.

Unstabilized soil at abandoned Texas Concrete Mine. Photo taken April 21, 2020. Comparison with satellite images shows equipment has not moved since 12/1/2019.

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

982 Days after Hurricane Harvey

TCEQ Goes After Texas Concrete Mine With Four Breached Dikes, Unstabilized Soil and Lapsed Permit

In October, the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ) issued a notice of enforcement (NOE) to a Texas Concrete Plum Grove sand mine for discharging wastewater into the East Fork. During Imelda, the mine’s dikes breached in at least four separate places. The TCEQ also issued another NOE for failure to stabilize soil in the mine before letting its permit lapse.

No Activity at Plant for Months

TCEQ investigator Christian Eubanks says they saw no activity at the plant for two months before the investigation after Imelda. No one at Texas Concrete answered phone calls to discuss their intentions for the mine.

Citizen Complaint Leads to Investigation

When floodwaters swept through the mine, sediment and industrial wastewater washed into the East Fork. Shortly thereafter, Josh Alberson, a Kingwood resident, noticed a distinct difference in the color of water coming off Caney Creek and the East Fork while boating. His personal investigation led to the mine at 7530 FM 1010 Road, Cleveland in Liberty County. After seeing the breaches, he then filed a complaint with the TCEQ which conducted a formal investigation.

12 Allegations of Unauthorized Discharges in 4 Years, Then This One

Texas Concrete Sand and Gravel, Inc. has a troubled history at its Plum Grove location. TCEQ investigated the operation nine times in the last four years for 17 alleged violations. Twelve involved unauthorized discharge of industrial waste. Then came this investigation, adding to their home run count.

Previous alleged violations included failure to:

  • Prevent unauthorized discharge of industrial waste (7 investigations plus 5 complaints)
  • Renew registration
  • Document steps taken to address benchmark exceedances
  • Comply with record keeping and reporting requirements
  • Maintain compliance with permitted numeric effluent limitations
  • Sample at designated outfalls.

Four Breaches Photographed At Texas Concrete Plant

TCEQ investigators photographed four breaches in the 70-acre mine‘s dikes.
Breach 1. This and all photos below were taken by Christian Eubanks of the TCEQ.
Breach 2
Breach 3
Breach 4

Failure to Meet Final Stabilization Requirements

On October 1, 2019, the mine allowed its permit to lapse. A TCEQ overflight on that same day found that large portions of the plant consisted of exposed soil. However, before the mine can legally terminate its permit, it must stabilize soil on the property.

TCEQ defines final stabilization as: “All soil disturbing activities at the site have been completed and a uniform (e.g. evenly distributed, without large bare areas) perennial vegetative cover with a density of 70 percent (%) of the native background vegetative cover for the area has been established on all unpaved areas and areas not covered by permanent structures, or equivalent permanent stabilization measures (such as the use of riprap, gabions, or geotextiles) have been employed.”

TCEQ photo from flyover on 10/1/2019. Note exposed soil circled in red.

Stabilizing soil helps prevent erosion and water pollution. Pollution that could escape through breaches in the mine’s dikes and affect water quality all the way down to Lake Houston.

Need for Greater Setbacks of Mines from Rivers

Since Harvey, I have campaigned to increase the setback distance of mines from rivers to prevent this type of tragedy. Texas has no minimum setbacks. Most other states require at least 100 feet and Alaska requires 1000 feet.

Texas Concrete underscores the need to establish minimum setbacks that would keep dikes from breaching. Once the owners of this mine are gone, who will be there to repair the dikes after the next flood?

Kudos to Josh Alberson for having the curiosity to investigate a problem he saw and the tenacity to follow through. People like Josh make this community great.

For the full text of the TCEQ Report, click here.

Posted by Bob Rehak on 11/18/2019, with appreciation for Josh Alberson and the TCEQ

811 Days since Hurricane Harvey and 60 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.