Little to no cleanup progress made at Skull Creek
Despite an injunction issued last May, Inland Environmental & Remediation is still contaminating Skull Creek, which flows into the Colorado River, the state and the LCRA are claiming.
On Aug. 13, the State of Texas and LCRA filed a 476-page motion for contempt against David Polston, Inland Environmental and Remediation, Inc. and Inland Recycling, LLC in a Travis County court. Inland has failure to obey the agreed temporary injunction entered on May 14, the court documents say.
The temporary injunction required the company to stop accepting waste and cease any further polluting of Skull Creek in Altair.
It prohibits Polston from storing or processing any waste at the site near Altair in a manner that “causes, suffers, or allows discharge into or adjacent to waters” in the state.
But the company has failed to meet various deadlines and failed to make required progress reports, the motion for contempt claims.
The agreements required the defendants to “abate and contain all spills and discharges at the site” and start removing and properly disposing of waste.
The temporary injunction came three months after residents in the area noticed a “sickening odor” coming from the oily, black water of Skull Creek, killing countless fish and alligator gar that live in the creek.
Residents in the area reported livestock and pets becoming ill and dying following the contamination of Skull Creek in February of this year.
In April, the State of Texas filed a lawsuit against Inland Environmental Altair facility for their violations of the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality statutes and rules, stating Inland, “Unlawfully accumulated waste—including potentially carcinogenic chemicals—discharged from the facility into Skull Creek and caused pollution in violation of the State’s environmental laws. Those violations threaten to render water in the State harmful to the public health and environment.”
Contamination of the Colorado River was confirmed, however, state agencies have not stated the exact severity of the contamination.
Polston and Inland Environmental were to submit weekly reports of their actions to clean and cease pollution of the water. The motion of contempt states not all of Inland’s reports were made on time, and Polston and Inland “are not undertaking any efforts to comply with the agreed temporary injunction.”
The lawsuit went on to state that despite having agreed to the terms of the temporary injunction, and receiving written notice they were violating the court orders, and having the opportunity to come into compliance, Polston and Inland continue to violate the court’s order.
Numerous violations continue
The contempt motion lists the ways Polston and Inland Environmental have continued to violate the temporary injunction and state laws against pollution. Polston and Inland have:
- Continued to store waste at the site that allows discharge into or adjacent to water. Inland has been found to still store deteriorated containers that leak and spill waste in the facility’s chemical storage area. They have also been found to take waste from one area and store it in another area without proper measures to prevent leaching.
-Failed to remove and dispose of liquid waste - Inland has failed to follow the court’s order to pump, drain and haul off liquid contained in “Mixing Pit” at the Altair facility by June 13. The lawsuit states Inland has not completely drained the “Mixing Pit” and they have not disposed of any liquid waste.
_ Failed to remove super sac materials from the area. Inland was ordered to remove all of this waste by May 21. In Inland’s eighth progress report to the courts between July 1 - 7, Inland stated they completed excavation of waste from the Super Sac area, but did not submit any documentation to support their claim. Even if Inland had completed this task in July as they stated, the company would still be in violation of the court agreement because they were to have the task completed by May 21, some six weeks prior.
_ Failed to conduct site investigations to determine the extent of contamination from the discharges of Inland Environmental into Skull Creek, and subsequently, the Colorado River. At the May hearing, Inland was ordered to immediately commence site investigations under the supervision of a professional engineer or professional scientist.” The investigation specifically called for review of “Super Sac Area No. 2 and along Skull Creek, beginning at the location of Outfall 001 and extending to Highway 71.” Inalnd was to submit a report for the investigation no later than June 13, and complete the investigation as well as submit a corresponding report no later than July 15. The lawsuit states Inland “failed to conduct any site investigation, failed to have site investigation reports prepared and failed to submit any reports to the State of LCRA.”
-Failed to remove contaminated sediments along Skull Creek, beginning at Outfall 001 and extending to Highway
71. Inland was to remove contaminated sediments from Skull Creek by June
28. The lawsuit states Inland has “neither commenced nor completed the removal, despite the State repeatedly notifying Inland of it.”
- Failed to submit a detailed inventory and accompanying map of all waste at the site, as well as a detailed summary including location of all substances, products and materials. The lawsuit states Inland has not submitted a timely or complete inventory. In their fifth weekly progress report dated June 17, Inland sent LCRA and the State “working copies” of a waste inventory and map that failed to identify much of the waste, referring to waste as “unknown.” Inland reported their consulting expert, ESE Partners, LLC, is handling their inventory and accompanying map of waste at the site, however no map or list has been submitted.
_ Failed to sign and certify the truth, accuracy and completeness of the reports submitted by Inland to the State and LCRA. Polston never signed or certified any of the weekly progress reports, and the second and fourth weekly progress reports were turned in unsigned by anyone.
-Failed to construct cohesive and sufficiently compacted berms that hydraulically isolate Inland’s 50-acre lake from Skull Creek. The berms were to be constructed of long-lasting materials, but not road base material, waste or contaminated material. The construction was to be completed by June 13. Inland failed to have proper surveys done by professional engineers or geoscientists, and used insufficient materials to construct the berms. The berm Inland constructed (berm is an artificial ridge or embankment) is made of waste. The lawsuit states this berm “is incapable of preventing discharges during rain events.”
The lawsuit states Inland used porous, sandy on-site soil that was not compacted. Using on-site materials increases the likelihood of the material being contaminated.
Punishment for contempt of an order of the court could be a fine of no more than $500, confinement in county jail for no more than six months or both.
The Texas Water Code provides that Polston and Inland may be responsible for repayment of some or all of the State’s attorney fees, investigative costs and court costs.
The hearing date is set for Jan. 27, 2020 at 9 a.m. in Travis County District Court.