Tag Archive for: Triple PG

Triple PG Sand Mine Trial Delays Total 5 Years Now

June 5, 2024 – The Triple PG sand mine trial, originally scheduled for 2020, has been rescheduled yet again for March 2025 – a five year delay and counting.

A new schedule shows the Texas Attorney General lawsuit against the Triple PG sand mine in Porter may go to a jury on March 24, 2025. Originally, the case was set for trial on June 22, 2020.

But a corporate shell game by the defendant created a series of delays while the AG tried to figure out who was on first.

Then they took two years off for COVID. Finally the judge scheduled a conference call to jumpstart the case in 2022.

Original Complaint

The Texas Attorney General (AG) sued the Triple PG sand mine in Porter on behalf of the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality in 2019. Two breaches in the mine’s dikes were allowing industrial wastewater to flush into White Oak and Caney Creeks, then into the headwaters of Lake Houston. The lake supplies drinking water for two million people.

But not much has happened since then. And the Triple PG sand mine trial just got postponed. Again. Without explanation.

New Scheduling Order

See the second amended agreed scheduling order in the Triple PG sand mine trial. Five years of delays on a case originally scheduled to go to trial in one year!

The Attorney General’s office did not respond to a request for explanation or comment.

Discovery is now supposed to end on December 20, 2024. And a jury trial will begin “on or after March 24, 2025.” Uh, oh! I don’t like that “or after” part.

While Everyone Delayed…

Along the way, those daredevils at the Triple PG have:

Those bullet points just scratch the surface. I’ve created more than 60 posts that feature the Triple PG mine.

All Charges Denied

Prabakar Guniganti, the cardiologist from Nacogdoches owns the mine through one of his shell companies. The Montgomery County Appraisal District shows that the Guniganti Children’s Trust Fund owns it now. Guniganti has denied all charges by the TCEQ and Attorney General.

Pipeline that wasn’t exposed, December 6, 2019
sand mine and Lake Houston wilderness park
Wastewater at Triple PG mine, July 27, 2022. Guniganti has an ag/timber tax exemption on this gem.
dead trees on property adjoining Triple PG mine
Trees killed by process wastewater on neighboring property, June 6, 2022
Triple PG wastewater flowing unobstructed into Caney Creek and Lake Houston, September 2019

Posted by Bob Rehak on 6/5/24

2472 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.

Royal Pines Builds Stormwater Detention Basin, But…

The controversial new Royal Pines subdivision that flooded a neighbor four times in two months has finally built a stormwater detention basin.

The good news: The basin should capture water flowing from one direction toward the neighbor.

The bad news: The height of the berm around the pond could back up water from the opposite direction onto the neighbor’s property. The concentrated flow could also erode the earth over a natural gas pipeline.

Drainage Now Concentrated Over Pipeline

The pipeline is buried only 36″ deep along the silt fence in the photo below. So any floodwater coming from the west (right) will now be concentrated directly over the pipeline.

Water used to converge from both east and west toward a natural depression in the middle of the new development. But contractors changed the natural grade, confusing the situation.

Looking south from over White Oak Creek toward the new 6.3-acre detention pond in the NW corner of Royal Pines. Water drains toward camera.

The drainage impact analysis for Royal Pines below shows that 11.6 acres outlined in purple (labeled as OFF1, for offsite area #1) drains through the larger 49.5 acre area that contains detention Pond 1 shown in the upper left. The plans show a channel running about a quarter of the way down the left border where the silt fence now is, then mysteriously stopping.

From Royal Pines Drainage Impact Analysis dated April 2022.

When I first saw the plans, I assumed the water in that channel would empty into the pond. But no inlets are installed at that location. At least not yet even though others are installed elsewhere.) See below and above.

Looking west toward neighborhood that flooded from development. No inlets come from that direction.

Instead, water coming from the west will meet a wall approximately 8 feet high.

Wall of Royal Pines Detention Pond 1 next to homeowners lot.
The wall of the detention pond. This area used to slope down toward the trees in the background. Now you can barely see them.

The berm forms a dam against any water coming from the west (behind the camera position). That includes floodwaters from White Oak Creek.

So where will the stormwater go? Instead of spreading out, it will be squeezed between the berm and homeowners. That has the potential to cause more flooding.

That giant wall also has the potential to obstruct the floodplain and back water up during a storm, just as the berms around sand mines can.

From Royal Pines Drainage Impact Analysis

The analysis claims the development will have no adverse impact either up- or downstream. However, during a five-year rain in January, the level of White Oak Creek came up much higher than a five-year flood.

What’s on the ground counts for more than what’s on paper.

Another Danger Lurks 36″ Down

But there’s potentially an even bigger danger. A natural gas pipeline is buried next to that silt fence that borders homes along the western edge of the detention pond. Erosion from all that concentrated water rushing over the pipeline could expose it, just as it exposed another pipeline 1.5 miles away.

Erosion exposed a Kinder-Morgan pipeline at the Triple PG Sand Mine. See below.

Exposed Kinder-Morgan gas pipeline at Triple PG Mine

The Texas Attorney General is still suing the owner of the mine over dangerous business practices.

Same Cast of Characters

The man behind the mine, Prabhakar Guniganti, also owns or owned Royal Pines. His name shows up on the general plan, although the Montgomery County tax rolls show a company called TC LB Royal Pines LP now owns the property. It’s not clear if there’s a connection between Guniganti and the Royal Pines Limited Partnership.

The detail below taken from General Plans dated March 18, 2022 shows the Guniganti Family is part owner of the property. But Royal Pines allegedly bought the land from the 1992 Guniganti Credit Shelter Trusts on 12/9/21 – more than three months earlier.

So, will the real owner please stand up?

Master of the Corporate Shell Game

Guniganti has a history of corporate shell games. After the Attorney General sued him, ownership of his mine changed hands so many times that the AG had to add five shell companies to the lawsuit. The AG also added Guniganti as an individual and as a director of the companies/partnerships to the lawsuit. Because of all the delays, the case still has not gone to trial.

This does not inspire confidence. Especially among homeowners who may be flooded, but don’t have the State’s deep pockets.

When I and homeowners talked to Montgomery County Engineering last week, the developer did not yet have a construction permit for the pond. The county said only that if any changes become necessary, they will be at the developer’s expense.

Just a reminder. Section 11.086 of the Texas Water Code states, “No person may divert … the natural flow of surface waters in this state, or permit a diversion to continue, in a manner that damages the property of another…”

Posted by Bob Rehak on 2/25/2023

2006 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.

Triple PG Wastewater Apparently Killing Trees on Neighboring Property

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.

Properties in question are inside the red oval. MCAD shows that Guniganti sold the Royal Pines land to TC LB ROYAL PINES LP on 12/9/21.

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.

Looking south toward stockpile in background. Properties in the forested strip do not belong to Guniganti. I took this picture on 9/27/2019, ten days after Imelda.
Reverse shot looking N from over stockpile. Taken in March 2020. Other shots taken in this series show water on neighbors’ property higher than inside the mine.

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.

dead trees on property adjoining Triple PG mine
Dead trees on property adjoining Triple PG mine immediately north of the mine’s stockpile in foreground. 5/4/22.
Looking NE. The dead trees on neighbor’s property adjoin the mine’s wastewater pit. 5/4/22.

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.

Close up cropped from image above.This used to be high, dry and covered with green. Compare with first image at top of post.

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.

Triple PG Sand Mine Case Finally Starting Discovery

Discovery will soon begin in the Texas Attorney General’s case against the Triple PG sand mine in Porter. The AG is suing the mine on behalf of the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ). TCEQ investigations documented repeated breaches of the mine’s dikes over a period of several years prior to filing the lawsuit. The breaches allegedly resulted in the release of hundreds of millions of gallons of industrial waste into the headwaters of Lake Houston, the source of drinking water for 2 million people.

Triple PG Mine
Triple P.G. Mine in Porter. Photographed on 6/16/2020. Bright colors likely due to high chloride content or Cyanobacteria which may contain cyanotoxins. Cyanotoxins are among the most potent toxins found in nature according to the CDC.

Brief History of Case

Over the years, I’ve written more than 50 posts featuring the Triple PG sand mine in Porter. The mine first came to my attention on May 18, 2019. I was giving Tony Buzbee, then a candidate for Mayor of Houston, a tour of sediment buildups in the San Jacinto watershed. As we turned a corner on Caney Creek, we came to a giant breach in the dike of the Triple PG mine. 

Triple PG Breach
Triple PG Breach to Caney Creek photographed in May of 2019.

I immediately reported the breach to the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ). TCEQ manages water quality in the State. And Triple PG was directly discharging industrial wastewater into the creek.

TCEQ investigated and found not one, but TWO breaches. The second was on White Oak Creek (far side of the mine in photo above). The TCEQ investigation resulted in a notice of enforcement on July 12, 2019.

Later, close examination on my own part revealed even more breaches in hard to reach places that could only be seen from a helicopter.

In September 2019, I photographed the breaches still open. And on October 1, I noted a mouth bar rapidly developing on the East Fork.

On October 11, 2019, the Attorney General of Texas sued the Triple PG mine on behalf of the TCEQ. The charges alleged violations of Chapter 26 of the Texas Water Code and related TCEQ rules pertaining to the discharge of industrial waste and process wastewater.

The mine continued to operate under an injunction. One stipulation: that the mine build “engineered” dikes that prevented future discharges. But in early November 2019, boater Josh Alberson, photographed a flimsy dike built out of sand across the Caney Creek breach

On November 1, 2019, Triple PG denied all claims by the Texas Attorney General in the State’s lawsuit.

In March 2020, TCEQ reported another unauthorized discharge of process wastewater. Suspended solids in the discharge were up to 676% higher than levels in unpolluted water measured upstream.

The mine continued to operate under a temporary injunction until the case was supposed to have gone to trial on June 22 that year. But the case did NOT go to trial then. Covid and legal maneurvering delayed it. 

Legal Maneuvering

Mere days after the Texas Attorney General (AG) filed a lawsuit against Triple P.G. Sand Development, the mine’s owner transferred ownership of the mine. Even though the transfer was recorded in October 2019, the attorney general says the papers were dated in the prior January — before the unauthorized discharges that triggered the lawsuit. 

This appeared to be an attempt to shield assets from liability. Subsequently, the AG filed an amended petition on June 17, 2020, adding five defendants:

  • Guniganti Family Property Holdings, L.L.C.
  • Prabhakar R. Guniganti, individually 
  • 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 next week, on June 24, 2020, the defendant’s counsel withdrew from the case.

On July 8, 2020, the judge granted a motion to substitute counsel. Then, everything ground to a halt. During Covid, judges reportedly granted any request for a delay. And nothing happened for almost 2 years! 

The next entry in the Travis County Court records was in April 2022. It was a conference among the lawyers and judge designed to jumpstart the case.

Next Up: Subpoenas and Depositions

Susan Jablonski, head of TCEQ’s Enforcement Division, says she’s looking forward to deposing defendants. TCEQ has met with the AG on a monthly basis. Right now, they are preparing subpoenas for four depositions. 

Meanwhile, Guniganti is selling off land. His name appears on plans for Royal Pines, a new residential development now clearing land west of his mine.

But with Guniganti listed in the case as an individual, it could be harder for him to shield assets.

The Attorney General seeks $1.1 million in damages plus $25,000 per day for every day that the dikes remained open. By my estimates the dikes remained open approximately 5 months. That could add up to millions more.

It’s good to see movement on this case.

Class Action Suit Also Pending

Triple PG is also a defendant in a class action lawsuit against dozens of sand mines in the San Jacinto watershed by approximately 1000 plaintiffs. In that case, the trial court refused the defendants’ motion to dismiss. The defendants then appealed. But the appellate court found no reversible error, affirmed the trial court’s order and ordered the sand mines involved to pay all costs of the appeal. That happened on May 10, 2022. The trial is already moving forward.

That case also involves sedimentation. Plaintiffs allege that defendants’ business practices caused sediment to be released from mines during Harvey. Further, they allege that that sediment reduced the conveyance of the San Jacinto and the storage capacity of Lake Houston, contributing to the flooding of their homes.

Posted by Bob Rehak on 5/27/22

1732 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.

Royal Pines Goes Pineless

About a month after it began, the developers of Royal Pines have cleared a swath of trees about 1,000 feet wide and a half mile long.

Photos Taken 5/15/22

Looking NNE from southern end of Royal Pines. West Lake Houston Parkway on right. Photo 5/15/22.
Looking E from northern end of Royal Pines toward Triple PG Sand Mine. The trees between the foreground and mine will also be cleared. Photo 5/15/22.
Looking S. West Lake Houston Parkway in upper left. The large cleared area in the top right is Woodridge Village which flooded hundreds of homes in Elm Grove and North Kingwood Forest after it was clearcut and before the developer installed detention basins. Photo 5/15/22.

Clearing Started Before Permits Issued

Interesting that the clearing began before the permit was issued. See this post dated 4/24/22.
TCEQ Permit information. Clearing should be complete for the peak of hurricane season in September..

Plans Show 80+ Homes in Pre-Atlas 14 Floodplain

The following links will show you the general plan and layouts for the first three sections:

Note the dotted lines that snake their way through the top of the development. Those represent the 100- and 500-year floodplains.

Notice how a large part of the development is in “Zone X (Shaded).” That’s the area between the limits of the base flood (100-year or 1% annual chance) and the 0.2-percent-annual-chance (or 500-year) flood. I counted more than 80 homes in that zone. I also see six inside the 100-year zone.

Keep in mind that these flood zones are based on pre-Atlas 14 estimates. FEMA shows this area was last mapped in 2014. When FEMA approves new flood maps in the next few years, those zones will expand to take in more of the subdivision.

The subdivision at buildout will comprise more than the three sections. Houston Business Journal said Royal Pines will ultimately feature between 350 and 450 homes targeted at first-time home buyers.

Posted by Bob Rehak on 5/15/2022

1720 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.

Digest: Updates on Six Lake Houston Area Flood-Related Stories

Below is a quick digest of six flood-related stories affecting the Lake Houston Area.

Dredging is a Slow Go

Mechanical dredgers are slowly working their way through the channel south of Royal Shores. It connects the East and West Forks of the San Jacinto. Without dredging, the dredging equipment itself would not be able to make it through the channel.

However, the pace of the dredging is painfully slow. You can see the progress by comparing the two pictures below. I took them 22 days apart.

Taken on July 11, 2021
Taken on August 2, 2021.
Google Earth shows they went a little more than 600 feet in a little more than three weeks.

At about 200 feet per week with about 2,000 more feet to go, they should reach the East Fork in about another ten weeks.

Several boaters have commented on how the dredges can wait hours for a pontoon to ferry dirt back to the placement site. Their net takeaway: very inefficient. During a July 8 meeting at the Kingwood Community Center, Stephen Costello called this method of dredging “unsustainable.” He’s sooooo right. We will run out of luck long before we run out of places to dredge.

Mechanical dredging (shown in the photos above) is far slower and less efficient than hydraulic. Great Lakes hydraulic dredges removed 500,000 cubic yards of sediment from the mouth bar area in just two months – July and August of 2019. DRC’s mechanical dredges removed another 600,000+ cubic yards in the 19 months between January 2020 and July 2021.

Interestingly, Google Earth shows that when the dredgers reach the East Fork, they will be closer to the Triple PG Sand Mine in Porter than the current placement area south of River Grove Park. The Triple PG mine will also be less than half the distance of a mine that the Army Corps previously pumped spoils to from the mouth bar– the Eagle Sorters Mine on the West Fork.

Hmmmm. Triple PG. A placement area for East Fork spoils? A return to hydraulic dredging? Interesting thoughts.

Seasonal Lowering of Lake Conroe

Seasonal lowering of Lake Conroe has started as planned. SJRA is releasing 75 cubic feet per second, according to their dashboard.

Seasonal release is shown as a City of Houston (COH) Diversion.

When the lowering started on August 2, a day late, the lake was at 200.87. So releasing 75 CFS has brought the lake down .19 feet, a little more than 2 inches. Barring large rainfalls, this rate should reach the objective of 200 feet by September 1.

The Lake Conroe Association is still fighting the lowering in Montgomery County District Court. Judge Mike Mays set a hearing date for Tuesday, August 24, 2021 at 2PM.

Tropics Heating Up

Five Day Tropical Weather Outlook from National Hurricane Center

The National Hurricane Center shows two areas of concern in the Atlantic as of 2PM, Friday August 6th.

A few hundred miles south of the Cabo Verde Islands, a tropical wave (orange area) and a broad area of low pressure could turn into a tropical depression by late this weekend or early next week. Formation chance through 5 days…medium…60 percent.

Another tropical wave approaching the Lesser Antilles is a lower threat. NHC predicts development, if any, of this system will be slow and occur early next week. Formation chance through 5 days…low…20 percent.

NOAA Issues Mid-Season Hurricane Outlook

Another forecast released two days ago by NOAA says that atmospheric conditions are still conducive for an above-average hurricane season. See their predictions in the right hand column below. These numbers include the five named storms so far this season.

Attorney General Lawsuit Against Triple PG Mine Still Active

Craig Pritzlaff of the TCEQ assures me that despite visible lack of progress in the Attorney General’s lawsuit against the Triple PG mine for illegal discharges, the AG has not dropped the case. “Indeed, very few, if any, cases referred to the AG for civil prosecution are ever dropped,” he says. “Litigation, particularly environmental litigation, is a complicated and lengthy process. That process was further complicated by the COVID-19 pandemic, which halted court dockets across the State throughout 2020 and into 2021.”

Condos 250 Feet from 250,000 CFS

A Chinese developer is building yet more condos even closer to the West Fork in the Kings Harbor neighborhood.

See new construction bottom center. Lai finished the units at the right earlier this year.
The nearest unit above will be about 250 feet from the San Jacinto West Fork.

During Harvey, more than 250,000 cubic feet per second came through this area. It flooded homes and businesses more than 10,000 feet from the river.

The developer is also hoping to sell/develop that grassy area in the bottom center of the photo for $1.45 million.

I guess money has a short memory.

That concludes this month’s digest.

Posted by Bob Rehak on 8/6/2021

1438 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.

Daredevils at Triple PG Mine Continue to Push Safety Envelope

Two daredevil sand mining companies, Triple PG Sand Development, LLC and Texas Concrete, have stepped up their efforts to mine sand between pipelines that carry natural gas and highly volatile liquids.

AG Lawsuit Filed in 2019

In October of last year, the Texas Attorney General sued the Triple PG mine in Porter for up to $1 million on behalf of the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ). The original petition in the case cited repeated breaches in the mine’s dikes over a period of several years that let process water and sediment from the mine escape into the headwaters of Lake Houston. Lake Houston supplies drinking water for approximately two million people.

Days after the AG filed the suit, the mine’s owner, Dr. Prabhakar R. Guniganti, a cardiologist from Nacogdoches, tried to shuffle ownership of the mine through a series of trusts controlled by his family. In June of this year, the AG filed an amended petition, naming all the trusts and their officers (both individually and as directors) as additional defendants.

In that amended petition, we learned that a new operator started managing the mine in May of this year. However, Guniganti still owns it, according to the Montgomery County Appraisal District. The new operator is Texas Concrete, the same company that TCEQ fined in Plum Grove on the East Fork – for multiple breaches and other violations.

Both the TCEQ and AG’s office have declined to comment on ongoing legal matters relating to the Triple PG operation. However, while flying over the mine on Monday this week, I saw something very disturbing.

Mining Between Pipeline Corridors

Kinder Morgan has an easement for a natural gas pipeline through the mine. You can see the pipeline path on the left in the photo below. Their pipeline was exposed during Harvey by erosion and had to be buried deeper. Luckily, no explosions or fires resulted.

Looking NW. Mining between pipelines at the Triple PG mine in Porter. Natural gas line on left; HVL lines in utility corridor at top of frame.

Additional pipelines carrying highly volatile liquids run through the utility corridor at the top of the frame. LMI exposed those same pipelines further northwest when it mined on both sides of them. Then erosion ate the sand out from under them.

Now, Triple PG and Texas Concrete are mining sand from between the pipelines. This will increase the potential for erosion in future storms. That could expose pipelines and potentially lead to pipeline ruptures, spills, and/or explosions.

Looking west. Removing additional ground cover makes the pipelines on either side more susceptible to erosion and exposure during floods.
Looking south. Notice on right how mine has run heavy equipment across both pipeline corridors, a dangerous practice according to pipeline engineers.

To adapt a phrase about pilots from the aviation industry, “There are old miners and bold miners.” Those daredevils at Triple PG sure are Bold. With a capital B. As in Boom.

Posted by Bob Rehak on 12/11/2020

1200 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.

Sand Miner Takes Over Troubled Porter Mine While Still Violating TCEQ Regs at Plum Grove Mine

A year after the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ) filed a notice of enforcement against a Plum Grove sand miner named Somaiah Kurre, it appears that Kurre still has not complied with TCEQ regulations to restore his abandoned mine. However, he has found time to take over operations at the troubled Triple PG Sand Mine in Porter. The Texas Attorney General is already suing the Porter mine. This raises two serious public policy issues.

Should miners who leave behind environmental issues at one site be allowed to operate another before fixing problems at the first?

Permits Without Performance

It also calls into question state regulations that allow sand mines to obtain operating permits without forcing them to restore mines to nature or alternative uses when done.

Other states force mines to post performance bonds for reclamation before issuing the initial permit to construct a mine. If they restore the land when done mining, they get their money back. If they don’t, the state can use it to cover the cost of cleanup without forcing taxpayers to foot the bill.

Performance bonds are common in the construction industry.

Texas should adopt a performance-bond policy. This case shows why.

Texas regulations state only that a mine needs a reclamation plan to get a permit. However, there are no regulations stating they must execute the plan.

When unscrupulous operators are done mining a site, there’s no reason for them to invest another penny in it.

Texas needs performance bonds and/or a “toxic legacy” law. Companies that abandon unsafe mines should be forbidden to operate anywhere else in the state. They just can’t be trusted.

Troubled History In Plum Grove

Texas Concrete Sand and Gravel, Inc., one of Mr. Kurre’s 16 companies, has a troubled history at its Plum Grove location. Before October 2019, TCEQ investigated it nine times for 17 alleged violations in four years. Twelve involved unauthorized discharges of industrial waste.

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 water quality at designated outfalls.

Abandoned Without Compliance After Imelda

During Tropical Storm Imelda in September 2019, the mine’s dikes breached in four places. The mine discharged industrial wastewater and sediment into the San Jacinto East Fork. The East Fork empties into Lake Houston, the source of drinking water for 2 million Houstonians.

The company eventually fixed the breaches, but cancelled its Multisector General Permit (MSGP) and Aggregate Production Operation (APO) registration.

A company spokesperson told TCEQ investigators that the company had ceased all operations at the site.

However, the TCEQ report notes that terms of Texas-Concrete-Sand-and-Gravel’s permit still obligated the company to stabilize soil on the site or return it to an alternative post-mining use. A year later, that still hasn’t happened. Large portions of the site remain barren and disturbed.

No visible attempt has yet been made to stabilize soil, restore the land that needed it, or convert the site to an alternative use. So the company is still violating terms of its permit.

An excavator, dredge, shed, other abandoned equipment, plus bacteria- and scum-laden ponds remain. See photos below.

Photos Taken 10/25/2020

Abandoned stockpile shows signs of recent activity.
After a year with supposedly no activity, you would think some of this water would have clarified. Can you spot the five different colors of water in different ponds?
Dredge has not moved in months.
Working parts of dredge are crusted with rust.
Large part of site not stabilized. Tracks show trucks entering and leaving the mine, taking sand from the mine’s stockpile. But no signs or permits are posted at the site.

Provisions of Regulations and Permit

The requirements of the Texas Multi-Sector General Permit (MSGP) run more than 166 pages. But a TCEQ spokesperson summarized the relevant portions this way.

“The MSGP contains requirements … to terminate permit coverage after mining activity has ceased. The operator must demonstrate they have accomplished the final stabilization requirements: 1) completion of soil disturbing activities, 2) stabilization to minimize soil erosion, 3) ensuring stormwater runoff does not contribute to a violation of water quality standards, and 4) the site has been revegetated or left in the condition consistent with post-mining land use such as a nature park or lakes.”

“When operators have achieved final stabilization, they must submit a Notice of Termination which has been signed and certified by the responsible signatory authority as described in 30 TAC §305.44,” said the spokesperson.

The TCEQ spokesperson also said that Kurre, who fancies himself a startup impresario, is trying to negotiate payment terms for a $19,036 fine that TCEQ levied against him on April 14, 2020.

Encore Performance?

Meanwhile, another of Kurre’s companies, Texas Frac Sand Materials Inc., has taken over operations at the troubled Triple PG Sand Mine in Porter. It appears from a 9/8/2020 TCEQ investigation of that location that Kurre will operate, not own the mine.

The First Amended Petition in the Triple PG lawsuit by the Attorney General shows that Kurre took over operations at the Triple PG mine in April. However, the amended petition did not specify who the new operator was at the time.

The Texas Attorney General is suing the owners of the Triple PG Mine for more than a million dollars, plus up to $25,000 per day for the period that the mine discharged industrial wastewater into the headwaters of Lake Houston. Yep. Does this sound familiar? The Triple PG case (Cause No. D-1-GN-19-007086 in Travis County) has not yet gone to trial.

Ironically some of the alleged violations that the TCEQ charged Mr. Kurre with in Plum Grove are identical to the charges that the Attorney General lodged against the Triple PG mine in Porter.

The Many Faces of Somaiah Kurre

A search for corporate listings associated with Kurre’s name in the Texas Secretary of State database shows that he controls – wholly or partially – 16 businesses.

  1. Manjari Enterprises LLC
  2. Texas Concrete Enterprise, L.L.C.
  3. Asam LLC
  4. Texas Concrete Enterprise – II, LLC
  5. Shree Radha, LLC
  6. Texas Concrete Enterprise – IV, L.L.C.
  7. Texas Concrete Sand and Gravel, Inc.
  8. Plum Grove Material, Inc.
  9. Rohini Enterprises Inc.
  10. JSR Materials, Inc.
  11. Bright Star Stores, Inc.
  12. US Readymix Inc.
  13. US Fracsand, LLC
  14. Rama Krishna 2, LLC
  15. Texas Frac Sand Materials, Inc.
  16. Texas Concrete Sand and Gravel Enterprise, Inc.

Along the East Fork, Kurre owns or operates mines in San Jacinto, Liberty, Montgomery and Harris Counties. That possibly qualifies him as the largest operator on the East Fork.

Toxic Legacy?

Note unusual blue-green color in pond – a likely indicator of potentially dangerous bacteria.

According to the TCEQ, the color of that blue-green pool on the right in the photo above indicates that it is likely filled with cyanobacteria. Cyanobacteria can produce cyanotoxins. And the CDC says that cyanotoxins are “among the most powerful natural poisons known. They can make people, their pets, and other animals sick. Unfortunately, there are no remedies to counteract the effects.”

Pond near entry road.
Not quite a nature park! Texas Concrete’s legacy in Plum Grove. No identifying signs or permits are posted at the entrance to the site, despite the truck traffic.

Sites like this can unnaturally accelerate the buildup of sediment dams in rivers. Not only do they expose sand, they expose it in the floodways of rivers and streams. After Imelda, a huge sand bar set up at the mouth of the San Jacinto East Fork . It contributed to flooding of nearby residents. The public will have to pay to remove it.

East Fork Mouth Bar after Imelda. Before Imelda, this area was 18 feet deep. Boaters say the deepest part of the channel is now three feet.

Posted by Bob Rehak on 10/29/2020

1157 Days after Hurricane Harvey and 405 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.

Sand Mine Continues to Push Its Luck by Mining Over and Between Pipelines

Last year, the flood during Tropical Storm Imelda washed out the sand supporting a natural gas pipeline running across an easement through the Triple PG Sand Mine in Porter. Luckily, Kinder Morgan (KM) shut the line down before anyone was hurt. KM then drilled 75 feet under the mine and spliced in a new section. But now Triple PG is mining over the new section, once again eroding the the public’s margin of safety.

Of course, it’s possible that the miners won’t get down to 75 feet. But TACA and some West Fork sand mines say they routinely mine 100 feet down.

Eroding Margin of Safety

Just as bad, they’re mining toward five pipelines carrying highly volatile liquids (HVL), potentially exposing them in the next flood, just like they were on the West Fork at the LMI River Road Mine.

The Kinder Morgan natural gas line runs diagonally between the trees in the foreground, parallel to helicopter skid in the lower left. Five HVL pipelines run in the utility corridor in the background.
Here’s how that same area looked after Imelda on 9/27/2019, when Caney Creek (right) had flowed through the mine.

Shortly before Harvey, the sand mine started mining next to the road cutting diagonally from top left to bottom right. Then, Harvey flowed through the mine, creating much of the erosion you see here.

Two years later, Imelda cut through the mine again, extending the erosion headward to the point where it could threaten the HVL pipelines in the utility corridor near the top of the frame above during the next flood.

In two years, the headward erosion cut toward the pipelines by 2000 feet.

Triple PG Already Operating Under Injunction

The sand mine sits at the confluence of two floodways and floods repeatedly.

On October 11, 2019, the State Attorney General at the request of the TCEQ, filed a temporary restraining order and temporary injunction against the sand mine. Repeated breaches of its dikes which had gone unrepaired allowed process wastewater to escape directly into the headwaters of Lake Houston. The issue even became part of the last Mayoral campaign when Tony Buzbee picked it up.

A Travis County Court set a trial date for 6/22/2020, but the trail has been delayed by COVID. Shortly after the Attorney General filed his suit, the owner of the mine, a cardiologist from Nacogdoches, tried to transfer ownership within his family’s companies and trusts.

The attorney general wound up suing all of them and the cardiologist’s attorney petitioned to withdraw from the case as counsel – a highly unusual move.

The case is still pending trial. Until then, the mine continues to operate under an injunction which prohibits it from dredging, but not dry mining.

Source: Travis County Clerk
Source: Travis County Clerk as of 9/30/2020

2020 will certainly go down in history as the year of living dangerously. A miner trying to push his luck is just one more thing we shouldn’t have to worry about…especially when he’s sitting on top of a huge stockpile of sand that he has barely touched in months.

No one has died yet. Hopefully they won’t. But if they do, it won’t take long for a lawyer to argue negligence and triple damages for the Triple PG owners. Of course, they will then likely declare bankruptcy and tuck tail back to Nacogdoches.

Posted by Bob Rehak on 9/30/2020

1128 Days since Hurricane Harvey and 377 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.

Approximately 1,000 Plaintiffs File Suit Against Sand Mines in Harvey Flooding

On February 20th of this year, approximately 1,000 plaintiffs filed a 118-page lawsuit against 55 sand mining companies in the San Jacinto River Basin. Plaintiffs allege that the miners harmed them by decreasing the capacity and depth of Lake Houston and its tributaries by wrongfully discharging and negligently allowing the release of materials into waterways. That reduction of capacity, they say, contributed to flooding their homes and businesses.

Western half of LMI River Road mine in floodway and flood plain of San Jacinto West Fork. Note also in foreground how the mine undermined five pipelines carrying highly volatile liquids.


To support their claims (¶613), plaintiffs cite violations of Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ) regulations and the U.S. Clean Water Act. They claim:

  • Excessive, unauthorized discharge of silt into waterways
  • Failure to:
    • Obtain stormwater discharge permits
    • Prevent unauthorized discharges
    • Minimize generation of dust and off-site tracking

Past and Present Activities Cited

Some defendants, they say, operated above permit limits and others operated without any permits at all (¶614).

Plaintiffs say (¶615) that defendants have operated immediately adjacent to various waterways and in the flood plain, clearcutting all vegetation, and digging pits within feet of the riverbanks. Thus, there are no real barriers between mines and the rivers, they claim. Further, they allege that defendants have no plans in place for protection and preservation of their pits and loose sand during flood events, which occur frequently.

Then Came Harvey

Hurricane Harvey, they say, inundated mines and “thousands of acres of sand washed downstream, clogging the rivers and lakes, resulting in flood waters moving outside the banks and outside the flood plain, causing hundreds of millions of dollars in damages.”

Washed out road INSIDE sand mine during Harvey.
Submerged sand mines in the floodway of the San Jacinto West Fork during Hurricane Harvey in 2017

Alleged Violations of Water Code

The defendants had a duty to implement procedures to reduce the discharge of sediment into waterways, but did not, according to the plaintiffs. Thus, the proximate cause of plaintiffs’ injuries involved negligence and negligence per se. Defendants allegedly breached their duties under sections 11.086, 26.039, and 26.121 of the Texas Water Code, thus causing flooding and damage to plaintiffs’ property.

To prove negligence, personal injury plaintiffs must show that the defendants’ conduct fell below the applicable standard of care and that their actions were the actual and proximate cause of harm. 

In cases of negligence per se, defendants’ actions are assumed to be unreasonable if the conduct violates an applicable rule, regulation, or statute. That’s why lawyers cite the Texas Water Code, plus TCEQ and EPA regulations.

  • 11.086 of the Texas Water Code provides that no person impound the natural flow of surface waters, or permit impounding to continue, in a manner that damages property of another by the overflow of the water diverted or impounded.
  • 26.039 specifies that mine operators must notify the TCEQ of accidental discharges or spills that cause or may cause pollution as soon as possible.
  • 26.121 prohibits discharge of pollutants. Both the EPA and TCEQ consider sediment a pollutant.

Specific Omissions

Specific omissions, say the plaintiffs, include failing to:

  • Locate sand mines outside of floodways
  • Increase the width of dikes
  • Decrease the slope of dikes
  • Control erosion with vegetation
  • Replant areas not actively being mined
  • Protect stockpiles from flooding
  • Mine only above the deepest part of the river
Flooding from Hurricane Harvey in Kingwood’s Town Center where 100% of businesses were disrupted, most for approximately a year. Some still have not reopened. Photo by John Knoezer.

Nuisance Claim

The plaintiffs also allege nuisance. Under Texas law, nuisance refers to a type of legal injustice involving interference with the use and enjoyment of property. Specifically, plaintiffs say that the defendants’ negligent conduct caused paintiffs’ flooding, thus depriving them of the use of their homes.

Complaint against Forestar by Barrington Residents

On page 108, a subset of plaintiffs (those who live in the Barrington), lodge a complaint against Forestar (USA) Real Estate Group Inc. They allege that Forestar developed, marketed and sold homes in the subdivision without any standards for determining the elevation of a house relative to flood risk.

The Long Ride to Safety During Harvey. Barrington Photo by Julie Yandell.
The Long Ride to Safety During Harvey. Barrington Photo by Julie Yandell.

“Despite having actual knowledge of the possibility of flooding in the Barrington Subdivision, Forestar did not advise homebuyers to purchase flood insurance,” says the complaint (¶640). “Nor did Forestar advise the residents of the Barrington Subdivision of its location on a floodplain, or that their elevations were changed due to lots being filled with dirt” when residents purchased homes.

Nevertheless, the complaint continues (¶643), homes were built at an “unreasonably low” elevation, given their location near the West Fork San Jacinto. “Forestar knew, or should have known, that houses needed to be built at an elevation adequate to prevent and/or reduce the likelihood of flooding.”

Clean out after Harvey in the Barrington. By Joy Dominique.
Clean out after Harvey in the Barrington. By Joy Dominique.

Damages Alleged

Plaintiffs allege damages that include:

  • Cost of repairs to real property
  • Cost of replacing personal property
  • Lost of use of real and personal property
  • Diminution of market value
  • Loss of income, business income, profits and business equipment
  • Loss of good will and reputation
  • Consequential costs, such as loss of time from work and alternate living expenses
  • Mental anguish
  • Pre- and post-judgement interest
  • Court costs

Conscious Indifference and Gross Negligence

¶658 asserts that the conduct of all defendants (sand mines and Forestar) qualifies as gross negligence under Texas law. The plaintiffs say that the defendants acts of omission involved an extreme degree of risk, considering the probability and magnitude of harm to others. Plus, “Defendants had actual subjective awareness of the risk involved in the above described acts or omissions, but nevertheless proceeded with conscious indifference to the rights, safety and welfare of plaintiffs and others.”

Where Case Stands

129th District Court Judge Michael Gomez signed a docket control order on 2/28/2020 that calls for:

  • All parties in the suit to be added and served with notice by 8/19/2020
  • Close of pleadings and start of mediation on 12/16/2020
  • End of discovery on 1/15/2021
  • All motions and pleas heard by 1/15/2021
  • Trial, if necessary, on 2/15/2021

To date, there have been several motions to transfer venue, dismiss the case, and change the judge.

Only Triple PG Sand Development, LLC has filed an answer to the plaintiffs’ claims; the company filed a general denial.

In a separate case, the Attorney General of Texas is suing Triple PG for failing to prevent and repair breaches in dikes that resulted in repeated unauthorized discharges of process wastewater and sediment into Caney Creek. Caney Creek joins the East Fork San Jacinto just downstream from Triple PG. Triple PG currently operates under an injunction that bars it from dredging.

Breach of Triple PG mine into Caney Creek and the headwaters of Lake Houston

Editorial Opinion

If successful, this case may force sand mines to operate more responsibly, now and in the future. For instance, it might force them to move farther back from rivers and out of floodways. Having taken thousands of photos of leaking sand mines from the air since Harvey, in my opinion, that might benefit everyone, not just the plaintiffs.

Giant sand bar at the mouth of the West Fork which backed water up through much of Kingwood, Atascocita and Humble.
Mouth bar on the East Fork San Jacinto grew by thousands of feet during Harvey and Imelda. Downstream from Triple PG and Texas Concrete Mines.

To read the entire lawsuit, click here.

Posted by Bob Rehak on August 2, 2020

1069 Days after 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.