Tag Archive for: unauthorized discharge

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.

TCEQ Fines Quadvest for 48,000 Gallon Sewage Spill in Colony Ridge

The Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ) has fined Quadvest $5,625 for a 48,000-gallon sewage spill in Colony Ridge, a large and growing development in Liberty County near the San Jacinto East Fork and Plum Grove. Quadvest supplies water and sewer services for the development.

The violation occurred in Camino Real, a Colony Ridge subdivision with almost 3500 lots. It happened at a lift station approximately 1,000 feet north-northeast of the intersection of Paul Campbell Loop Road and Plum Drive.

Discharge with Bluish Color Kills Fish

The complainant alleged that the discharge had a bluish color and killed fish. The TCEQ complaint says people were exposed to unsafe levels of pollutants, however, no deaths were reported in relation to the incident except for fish.

Photo of discharge in Maple Branch Creek

TCEQ says Quadvest “failed to prevent the unauthorized discharge of wastewater into or adjacent to any water in the state. Specifically, on July 22, 2019, an electrical failure at Camino Real Lift Station-H located at 342 Road 5002 caused the pumps to fail, resulting in approximately 48,000 gallons of wastewater being discharged into Maple Branch Creek, killing approximately 30 fish.”

Cleanup and Fine Cost Quadvest More Than $105,000

In July, 2019, Quadvest cleaned up the mess. TCEQ estimated the cost at more than $100,000. Then in June 2020, Quadvest CEO Simon Sequeira agreed to pay an additional penalty of $5,625.

Previous Related Violations

During the year before the unauthorized discharge, the TCEQ issued four other notices of violations to Quadvest for:

  • Sewage overflowing from a manhole at an estimated rate of 10-25 gallons per minute
  • Failure to maintain an operational alarm system for emergency conditions
  • Twice failing to secure its lift station from intruders (August and November 2018)

None of the violations was self-reported. Click here for the full TCEQ report.

Part of Larger Problem

Since this incident, other sewage problems have occurred in Colony Ridge. Stormwater can wash this fecal contamination into adjoining streams and bayous which empty into the East Fork and Lake Houston, the source of drinking water for 2 million people.

More Colony Ridge fecal contamination bubbling up from underground and flowing toward Tarkenton Bayou. Photo taken in June 2020.

Posted by Bob Rehak on 10/4/2020

1132 Days since Hurricane Harvey and 381 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.

TCEQ Alleges Fourth Unauthorized Discharge in 10 Months at Triple PG Mine

In March, ReduceFlooding.com published pictures of the Triple PG sand mine pumping water onto adjoining properties near White Oak Creek. The TCEQ investigated within days. Today, they reported their findings and issued a Notice of Enforcement for the unauthorized discharge of process water. The discharge also appears to violate terms of the Attorney General’s injunction against the mine and could result in the AG seeking additional fines up to $25,000 per day for discharges at apparently lasted three months.

Mine process wastewater flooding neighboring properties in upper right. Picture taken Jan 20, 2020.
Mine process wastewater flooding neighboring properties in foreground. Picture taken Feb. 13, 2020.
Triple PG wastewater on neighboring properties on March 6, 2020. See water in strip of trees in front of stockpile.

TCEQ Report on Compliance Investigation

TCEQ observed process water outside Triple PG’s property boundary and concluded, “The allegation of a discharge of process water was confirmed. As a result of the investigation conducted on March 11, 2020, one alleged violation was noted for failure to prevent the discharge of process water.” That was the fourth such finding in five years for the mine.

TCEQ says in part, “Because process water was located outside of the facility’s property boundary with a high likelihood to enter waters of the state, an unauthorized discharge had occurred.”

676% Higher Levels of Suspended Sediment than Creek Water

Wastewater was overflowing from Ponds Five and Six. Analysis of water samples showed that the overflow had levels of suspended solids in it that were 137% to 676% higher than the background level found upstream in White Oak Creek. That’s more than 2X to almost 8X above the creek water.

Discharge Not Authorized

Both TCEQ rules and the terms of the injunction prohibit any discharges of process water not authorized by the TCEQ.

The Notice of Enforcement issued by the TCEQ on 4/3/2020 cites, “Unauthorized discharge of process water: Specifically, during the investigation conducted on March 11, 2020, process water was noted outside the property boundary of Triple PG Sand Development Facility with the likelihood to enter waters of the state.”

Recommended corrective action? TCEQ simply says, “There shall be NO unauthorized discharge of pollutants.”

Additional Fines Possible

The Texas Water Code Section 7.102 allows fines up to $25,000 per day for each day of a continuing violation. See flooded neighboring properties above in January, February and March flyover photos.

That water was building up and flooding adjoining properties for at least three months. This could get expensive for Triple PG!

The Attorney General’s office did not respond yet to a request for comment about the type of penalties that it would seek, if any.

Fourth Unauthorized Discharge in Last Year

TCEQ has conducted eight other investigations at Triple PG in the previous 5 years. They included investigations into:

  • Failure to renew their registration
  • Alleged failure to maintain pollution prevention measures and controls
  • Failure to maintain a Stormwater Pollution Prevention Plan (SWP3)
  • Unauthorized discharge of process water (three times since May 2019)

This makes the fourth citation for unauthorized discharges in a year.

Editorial Comment: This mine just doesn’t seem to take the TCEQ, Attorney General, State of Texas or the health of their neighbors seriously. I hope the Attorney General shuts them down.

Posted by Bob Rehak on 4/6/2020

951 Days after Hurricane Harvey and 200 after 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.