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Inland report claims algae bloom, natural process responsible for recent Skull Creek contaminations

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Inland report claims algae bloom, natural process responsible for recent Skull Creek contaminations

April 10, 2019 - 00:00
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TPWD lead investigator leans toward Inland’s conclusions, agency did not test fish samples

COLUMBUS — A report from Inland Environmental obtained by the Colorado County Citizen under the Texas Public Information Act claims that an algae bloom or “activity of anaerobic digestion,” may be responsible for the oily, black chemical and pungent smell found at Skull Creek in early February and again in mid-March.

The release of the report came after revelations surfaced that the Texas Parks & Wildlife Department did not test samples of dead fish from the early February fish kill on Skull Creek that coincided with the first pollution incident.

EXCERPTS FROM THE INLAND ENVIRONMENTAL REPORT
READ THE FULL REPORT

The report, authored either for or by Inland Environmental, was obtained from Colorado County under the Texas Public Information Act.

It is unclear if someone from Inland Environmental or a hired consultant drafted the report. It does not indicate an author, but includes Inland’s name and address in the top left corner of the first page. The report was evidently issued March 27.

David Paulston, owner of Inland Environmental, did not return calls seeking an interview. In response to several text messages, including one asking him to discuss the report specifically, Polston only replied, “I haven’t heard anything, as far as I know it’s all still under investigation.”

Two individuals present at a meeting of Colorado County elected officials and officials from the three agencies investigating the Skull Creek contamination last Tuesday in Columbus have independently confirmed to The Citizen that the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department’s lead investigator on the case, who had not previously advocated any natural cause of the incident, was openly advocating Inland’s algae bloom theory last week.

The Citizen posed questions to the Carter Smith, Executive Director of Texas Parks and Wildlife, Col. Grahame Jones, head of law enforcement for TPWD, and Craig Bonds, Director of Inland Fisheries for the agency, including why its lead investigator was now buying in to the algae bloom theory, and why they did not test the fish samples they took from Skull Creek.

Colorado County Judge Ty Prause told The Citizen last Wednesday that TPWD officials told him in a meeting the day prior they did not test the fish kill samples because a culprit for the spill was not identified at the time the samples were taken.

All three TPWD officials refused to answer the Citizen’s questions.

Instead, Josh Havens, Director of Communications for the Agency, released a statement.

“The protection of our state’s fish and wildlife and associated habitats is fundamental to the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department mission, and we take very seriously any event that impacts the viability of these resources. Whether it be in a creek, a lake, or the Gulf of Mexico, TPWD has a long and well established history of investigating alleged unlawful discharges of various sizes and scales into public waterways, as well as holding responsible parties liable for impacts to natural resources. Investigations into these matters take time. There is currently an active and ongoing investigation being conducted by several agencies, including TPWD, into the circumstances surrounding the incident at Skull Creek. Once that investigation is complete, TPWD and other investigating agencies will make a determination how best to proceed,” Havens said.