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DSHS needs to shake the couch cushions, state needs to take alphabet soup off the menu

May 01, 2019 - 00:00
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View from the Cheap Seats

If a state agency with a budget of in excess of $800 million dollars can’t afford to conduct tests on water and fish in the Colorado River near its confluence with Skull Creek to determine whether or not to issue an advisory to not eat fish harvested from the area, we’ve reached a pretty pass.

First, I’m in shock that that a spokesperson for a state agency would actually tell me that they don’t have the money for something so simple and necessary. Second, if they don’t have the money, that’s even more concerning, because this is a major health and safety issue, and the Texas Department of State Health Services is the only agency with jurisdiction to issue an order telling people they shouldn’t eat fish from contaminated waterways.

How can this be your agency’s immediate knee-jerk response?

It seems our state regulatory agencies--or at least most of them, are failing us.

As shocked as I am to be saying this after many years in this business, I’ll exempt the Texas Railroad Commission from that statement in this case. The story you’ll read on page 12 of today’s newspaper outlines some of their very early efforts to raise alarms about container washout at Inland Environmental near Altair.

Many of you have credited this newspaper for lighting the fire that finally resulted in the state’s legal action against Inland Environmental.

It shouldn’t have to be that way. The agencies should should have acted quicker on their own.

Which brings me to our latest dose of Alphabet Soup.

Seriously, there is yet another agency involved in the Skull Creek saga. Another one. One more, and I am assured I will win a set of steak knives.

I told you earlier this year that Skull Creek had prompted us to look at the regulatory failures of other agencies not specifically related to Skull Creek.

The latest debacle with DSHS only proves that this needs a deeper look.

We won’t be sacrificing our Skull Creek coverage, but complimenting it. Expect to see some of that later this summer.

On another note, I want to thank each and every one of you who brought $5 bills, $100 checks, and every single amount in between to help this newspaper pay for the records from the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality we requested under the public information act. The other two agencies we sought records from didn’t charge us, and you’ll see some of those records in this week’s paper. We hope to have the TCEQ records in our hands early next week.

Every dollar we would have spent on those records from our tight editorial budget would have meant less money we have to spend using our newly enhanced group of stringers news and features for your enjoyment. You enabled us to continue doing what we do every day, and to do more.

Thank you. We are humbled and grateful, and blessed by your generosity.

Vince Leibowitz is Managing Editor of The Citizen and lives in Columbus. Connect with Vince on social media: or or