BMPs for Final Stabilization Report Omit Crucial Elements
This is the eighth in a series about Best Management Practices (BMPs) proposed by the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ) for sand mines in the San Jacinto watershed. This post will focus on the Final Stabilization Report that operators should file after mines cease operation.
As we saw yesterday, operators abandon many mines with little thought to stabilization, cleanup, or reclamation. When that happens, mines become a blight on communities and the environment.
The seven previous posts have talked about:
- Scope and Need for Proposed BMPs
- Setbacks from Rivers
- Vegetative Controls
- Structural Controls
- Pre-Mining Planning
- Mining Phase
- Post-Mining Phase
Below is the text of proposed BMPs for the Final Stabilization Report. I will provide my comments at the end. Here is a link to the complete text of all BMPs proposed by the TCEQ.
Final Stabilization Report
BMPs within the final stabilization report show what the TCEQ values. One made me scratch my head and sigh “Huh?” Others represent glaring omissions. Below, see the proposed text.
6 Final Stabilization Report
Prior to operations terminating at a sand mining facility site or portion(s) of the site, a final stabilization report must be submitted to the executive director for review and approval at the following address:
- Texas Commission on Environmental Quality Stormwater Team Leader (MC-148)
- P.O. Box 13087
- Austin, Texas 78711-3087
The Final Stabilization Report must, at a minimum, include and demonstrate that the items described below in section 6.1 Report Requirements have been addressed.
6.1 Report Requirements
- The operator shall establish perennial vegetative cover in all areas except where ponds, highwalls, permanent structures, or paved areas exist.
- Perennial vegetative cover must be uniform (i.e. evenly distributed with no large bare areas) and have a density of at least 70 percent of the native background vegetative cover for the area.
Vehicle and Equipment Storage and Maintenance Areas:
- The operator shall remove fluids and batteries from, and thoroughly clean all vehicles and equipment remaining on-site.
- All fuel and chemicals must be removed from maintenance areas. Maintenance areas must be thoroughly cleaned and cleared. If maintenance areas are unpaved, these areas must have vegetative cover established.
All temporary structural controls must be removed from the site. Remaining permanent structural controls must be adequate to manage remaining on-site drainage.
- Highwalls: The permittee shall demonstrate that all remaining highwalls are stable and safe.
- Waste: All waste must be removed from the site and disposed in accordance with applicable TCEQ rules.
- Landowner Agreement: If applicable, a copy of all existing agreements with landowners regarding stabilization of the site must be included.
- Certification: The Final Stabilization Report must be signed and certified by a Texas licensed professional engineer or a Texas licensed professional geoscientist.
I have several comments on these.
The first has to do with vehicles and equipment “remaining” onsite. The BMP only requires that the operator must “thoroughly clean all vehicles and equipment remaining on site”! Really? Why not require removal?
This BMP lets operators turn old mines (and our river system) into junk yards. It’s a recipe for urban decay. Rivers flood periodically and will inundate the old equipment and abandoned vehicles. Simply cleaning it before it floods and rusts is a joke.
If operators don’t want the equipment and vehicles they should sell them to another operator or for scrap, not just clean them. Don’t turn them into a blight on the landscape or communities.
Second, the Final Stabilization report BMPs make no mention of removing debris.
Third, nor do they mention removing old buildings which could attract squatters and drug users.
Fourth, they make no mention of ensuring that outer dikes (or levees) separating abandoned pits from adjacent rivers are not breached due to lateral erosion of the river.
Finally, as with the BMPs in previously covered sections, enforcement is an issue here, too.
Public Comments Due by 7/19/21
Please submit your thoughts on the Final Stabilization Report and other BMPs to the TCEQ. Email Macayla.Coleman@Tceq.Texas.gov with the subject line “BMPs Guidance Document” before August 19, 2021.
Posted by Bob Rehak on 8/17/2021
1449 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.