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TCEQ: “Conditions ... an imminent threat” to health, environment

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TCEQ: “Conditions ... an imminent threat” to health, environment

April 10, 2019 - 00:00
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The Texas Commission on Environmental Quality determined as early as Feb. 12 that the substance found in Skull Creek following a Feb. 8 discharge created conditions that “are an imminent threat and substantial endangerment to human health and/or the environment,” according to a letter from a TCEQ official to owners of Inland Recycling, LLC. 

A copy of the letter, from Houston Regional Office Director Nicole M. Bealle, was obtained by The Colorado County Citizen this week. The letter indicates it was hand delivered to David Polston, owner of the company, on Feb. 12. [READ THE LETTER HERE]

The letter also deems Inland Recycling as the responsible party for the contamination in the creek, and demands the company take “immediate action” to rectify the incident, saying, “any delay will allow further impacts to human health and the environment.” 

Inland has previously denied any responsibility for the incident. 


The Colorado County Citizen sent the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality six questions relating to this letter last Wednesday. The agency declined to answer our questions, instead providing this response: 

The TCEQ currently has an ongoing investigation of this matter. The site operations fall under multijurisdictional oversight by the TCEQ, the Texas Railroad Commission of Texas, and Texas Parks and Wildlife Department. There are on-going extensive investigations by the three agencies and the agencies are in constant communication and collaboration. The completed TCEQ investigation report will document any sampling activities conducted as well as any regulatory compliance findings under TCEQ’s jurisdiction. On March 4, 2019 TCEQ referred the case to the Attorney General’s Office.

The Citizen’s Questions were as follows: 

1.) In a meeting with local officials and other agencies on Tuesday in Columbus, Colorado County, TCEQ staff seem to have moved away from the conclusions in this letter, agreeing with some agencies that now believe this was an algae bloom. What informed the thinking on this change? Is this now TCEQ’s official position—that this chemical spill was actually an algae bloom? 
2.) What response did Inland Recycling provide by the deadline imposed in the letter? 
3.) Were the steps in the Recommended Response followed? Did TCEQ receive the detailed list of chemicals managed and/or processed on site, and a diagram indicating the process areas, etc.? If so, can you release these documents, please? 
4.) Has TCEQ region 12 determined the adequacy of response yet? 
5.) This letter clearly indicates, “conditions at this site are an imminent threat and substantial endangerment to human health and/or the environment.” In light of this, why will TCEQ not tell our county judge or the state office of emergency management when the water test results will be back, or what is in the water?
6.) Does TCEQ still believe Inland Environmental is the responsible party for the incident?


The revelations from TCEQ’s letter are a vast departure from what the agency told Colorado County Judge Ty Prause last Tuesday in a meeting with officials from multiple agencies investigating the spill. 

Prause told The Citizen TCEQ officials present at the meeting “could not or would not” tell him if the contamination represented a significant health and safety threat to people or livestock. 

TCEQ has declined, on multiple occasions, to directly answer questions from The Colorado County Citizen concerning if the contamination represented a health and safety risk, and when water test results would be available. 

David Paulston, owner of Inland Environmental, did not return calls from The Citizen prior to press time. In response to text messages including one with a photo of the TCEQ letter in question, Paulston said, “I haven’t heard anything, as far as I know it’s all still under investigation.”