Petition reveals chemicals in water
AUSTIN — Just before 6 p.m. Friday, Judge Scott H. Jenkins of the 53rd State District Court of Travis County granted a request for, and issued, a temporary restraining order prohibiting Inland Environmental from further contaminating Skull Creek.
The lawsuit and petition for restraining order was filed around 3 p.m. Friday in Austin by the Texas Attorney General, acting on behalf of the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality, the state’s environmental regulatory agency.
In his order, Jenkins wrote that the court found evidence to show Inland had violated, and continued to threaten to violate, state water laws.
The restraining order bars Inland from accepting any waste, requires them to immediately cease and prevent all discharges, and cease all vessel washout operations, and required the company, within four days, to contain all waste on the site in covered containers to prevent leaking, and drain liquid from all open-air containment basins on the site.
The order grants exception for two specific permits for waste disposal held by the company. The implications of the exceptions were not immediately clear.
A hearing for to determine if the court will convert the TRO in to a temporary injunction that would continue in force until a trial date sometime in the future is set for May 2 in Austin.
The AG’s court filing, running more than 100 pages, set forth a grim picture of conditions at Inland, alleging that waste had discharged from the facility and in to Skull Creek, and indicated that levels of chemicals found in Skull Creek made the fish too dangerous for human consumption.
“Defendants have failed to address these violations and prevent further discharges. Consequently, Defendants’ violations threaten to render water in the state harmful to the public health and environment,”
The filing alleges Inland’s plant occupies 300 acres, including one mile of frontage along Skull Creek. The petition further alleges investigators witnessed “16,700 tons of materials including 4,000 containers (totes and drums) of solid waste and an area with an estimated 50 tons of material in super sacks, scrap metal and various sizes of used plastic containers,” at the site.
The petition alleges TCEQ Investigators Trey Thumann and Casimir Onwuka “discovered rampant mismanagement of waste at the Altair Facility,” specifically concerning the company’s washout operations.
“The washout operation was missing primary containment of washout fluids—the concrete wall surrounding the washout area was missing—effectively allowing liquid waste to flow out of the washout area,” the petition noted.
Further, the petition alleges that water analysis revealed higher concentrations of some chemicals than appropriate in Skull Creek.
“The analysis indicated that chromium, zinc, copper, toluene, xylene, ethylbenzene, 1,2,4-trimethylbenzene, and 1,3,5-trimethylbenzene exceeded benchmarks for Texas Surface Water Quality Standards—levels potentially lethal to fish and rendering fish unsafe for human consumption,” the petition notes.
“Total petroleum hydrocarbons were reported at a concentration greater than the protective concentration level for contact recreation water in the Texas Risk Reduction Program—potentially unsafe for ingestion or skin contact,” the petition alleges.
The petition says TCEQ investigators ultimately, “concluded that the improperly-contained washout facility, leaking storage containers, and discharging connected open-air containment basins could contribute to the contamination of Skull Creek indicated in the March 22 sampling.”