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County launches Skull Creek investigation

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County launches Skull Creek investigation

March 27, 2019 - 00:00
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IN WAKE OF SECOND SPILL

ALTAIR — Colorado County has launched its own investigation in to repeated chemical contamination at Skull Creek near Altair in the wake of a second incidence of pollution in as many months.

Colorado County Judge Ty Prause confirmed Monday morning that the county had launched its own investigation in to the spills—including taking water samples—following another contamination incident believed to have occurred overnight Thursday.

Prause told The Citizen area residents who drove through County Road 16 last Thursday night and early Friday morning complained of noxious, petrochemical fumes, leading to the discovery of more of what appeared to be the same oily, black substance that had previously contaminated Skull Creek near Texas Highway 71 on February 8.

On Friday, Prause directed Colorado County Emergency Management Coordinator Chuck Rogers to the location. Prause said that Rogers, accompanied by Texas Commission on Environmental Quality Officials, took samples along county roads near Skull Creek, and were preparing to enter the property of Inland Environmental around 4:45 p.m. last Friday.

Inland Environmental, a Columbus-based company with a plant in Altair, was announced by TCEQ, the state’s top environmental regulator, as being under investigation in connection with the spill earlier this month. The company, which makes road materials, previously had its saltwater injection well capped by the Railroad Commission after repeated overfilling. Inland officials have previously denied the company was to blame. The Texas Railroad Commission said earlier this month there was no evidence the capped Inland Environmental well had leaked.

Prause said he expects the county to have water sample results back in two weeks.

Meanwhile, the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality, and Texas Parks and Wildlife Commission both confirmed they had received reports of the second spill at Skull Creek. The Texas Railroad Commission said an inspector responded to the spill Friday, and “reported the water was gray and cloudy smelling of sewage but found nothing conclusive,” according to Ramona Nye, spokesperson for the commission.

Our original investigation continues. An inspector responded to this latest report Friday. The inspector reported the water was gray and cloudy smelling of sewage but found nothing conclusive.

In response to repeated questions on when TCEQ would have water samples the agency had previously taken at Skull Creek, the agency continues to have no definitive answer, saying only they will be released along with a complete incident report when the investigation has concluded.