Ruling may take more than year in bayou discharge request
By Allen Jones Updated 9:04 am, Wednesday, November 16, 2016
It will take a little more than a year for an administrative law judge to rule in a contested case hearing regarding a hazardous-waste recycling company's request to treat and discharge excess from petroleum refining and petrochemical industries into Dickinson Bayou.
After convening a preliminary hearing on Oct. 25, Administrative Law Judge Joanne Summerhays set a procedural calendar that started with a 30-day discovery process Nov. 8 and will end with closing arguments Nov. 14, 2017. Summerhays could file her ruling next year on Dec. 9, according to the hearing schedule.
The San Leon Municipal Utility District, the Raz Halili Trust and several San Leon-area residents requested the hearing and are acting together in opposition to the discharge request filed last year by Clean Harbors San Leon Inc. The Massachusetts-based company, which provides environmental, energy and industrial services throughout North America, operates a facility at 2700 Ave. S. in San Leon.
The groups opposing Clean Harbors' request claim that dumping treated wastewater into the bayou that feeds into Galveston Bay could further pollute the bayou, which already is considered a health hazard by the state because of high levels of bacteria.
"Here's the reality - Clean Harbors San Leon's interest is purely a financial one, and they have viewed the unincorporated community of San Leon as an easy opportunity to dump chemical pollutants," said Chad Wilbanks, spokesman for those opposing Clean Harbors' discharge request. "The effect on the community, the bay waters and environment would be disastrous."
The Texas Commission on Environmental Quality has already given Clean Harbors preliminary approval to amend its existing permit, which allows the company to discharge treated stormwater into the bayou. A favorable ruling by the administrative judge would support Clean Harbors' request to use a process that the company claims will remove physical, chemical and biological contaminants from leftover oily waste and make it safe to release into the environment.
If its request is approved, Clean Harbors would be permitted to pump as much as 105,000 gallons of combined treated wastewater and stormwater daily into an outfall of Dickinson Bayou. RESIDENTS EXPRESS FEARS
Many area residents believe the process isn't strict enough or could fail, which they fear could send contaminated water into the bayou and eventually into the bay.
San Leon and surrounding communities use the bay for commercial and sports fishing and recreation. MaryLou Bishop lives near Clean Harbors in Hillmans Landing and is among those opposing the company in the contested case hearing. In a letter, she wrote in May to the TCEQ, Bishop said the area is already experiencing a decline in its natural resources because of pollution in the bay. She worries that the pollution is harming people's health.
"My family members are suffering diseases that are common along the Gulf Coast, making it noted as almost No. 1 in cancer and (chronic obstructive pulmonary disease)," Bishop wrote to the commission. "My mother drags around a 60-foot oxygen cord and cannot even go out of the house."
The treated wastewater would not impair the bayou's existing water quality, said Phillip Retallick, Clean Harbors' senior vice president of compliance and regulatory affairs, in a previous interview. That's why, he said, the TCEQ gave the company a preliminary permit amendment to discharge treated wastewater.
Attempts to reach an attorney representing Clean Harbors in the case were unsuccessful.
The state agency establishes surface water-quality standards, monitors and assesses waterways and organizes projects to protect or restore natural waterways. Clean Harbors San Leon's application to amend its permit to include treated wastewater discharge has gone through public hearings, analysis by the state environmental quality agency and review by the agency's executive director.
According to the TCEQ, Clean Harbors' discharge of treated wastewater will not pose a threat to the bayou's water quality, aquatic life or biological condition. Based on the agency's analysis, the TCEQ's executive director issued a draft permit that if upheld in the contested case hearing, could allow Clean Harbors to discharge treated wastewater into the bayou.
Clean Harbors' San Leon facility currently transports its contaminated water 28 miles to an incinerator in Deer Park. If its permit amendment is upheld by the judge, the company would be allowed to avoid the trip. The waste would be put through a multistage filtering process and released into a ditch that flows into an unnamed tidal tributary of the bayou. It wasn't until several area residents and entities filed contested case hearing requests claiming the discharge could have a direct impact on their personal property that Clean Harbors' permit amendment was halted. The TCEQ then referred the matter to the State Office of Administrative Hearings, an independent organization within the state's executive branch that conducts hearings and mediations.
A polluted waterway
A 2005 report that was part of a project funded by the TCEQ indicated that industrial activity contributed to accumulation of metal pollutants in sediment in the 431-square-mile watershed that includes Dickinson Bay. The most common water-quality problem, according to the report, is a surplus of coliform bacteria, especially in Dickinson Bayou. The bayou is listed by the TCEQ as impaired for historical use because levels of fecal coliform bacteria.
A 68-page document of filed contested hearing requests on the TECQ's website mostly mirrors Bishop's concerns. Phil Cone, president of the nonprofit group Save our Shores, also requested the hearing. He wrote to the commission on behalf of SOS members.
SOS works to educate the public about threats to the ecology of Galveston Bay and the entire Gulf Coast. In his letter, Cone alleged that Clean Harbors has already "extinguished aquatic life in waters that should be teeming with it." "We have reached a period of intelligence that we know 'water' is a 'NUMBER ONE' resource that is to be treasured," he wrote. "To do anything to endanger our future water supply and quality is only asking for 'BIG' trouble." The hearing
During the hearing, parties on both sides of the issue will make opening statements, present evidence, offer witness testimony, document exhibits, offer objections and give closing statements. Wilbanks said a team of regulatory experts is developing and presenting evidence supporting his party's claims.
The success of any TCEQ permit application, he said, is always based on the science and laws surrounding the request. He believes there is enough evidence to persuade the hearing's judge to rule against Clean Harbors' TCEQ discharge stormwater permit amendment application.
The administrative judge will consider the evidence and write a decision recommending an outcome. The outcome will then be presented to the TCEQ for approval or modification. The TCEQ's commissioners will review the decision to ensure all policy considerations have been met.
Wilbanks said the hearing and the meeting at which the judge's decision is considered by the TCEQ are open to the public. Although only the hearing's parties can participate in the process, he said: "It's hard to ignore a concerned community sitting in the back of the room."
Follow the case online at www.soah.texas.gov. A procedural calendar is available on the site.
Sunday, November 20, 2016
Clean Harbors San Leon, Texas Environmental groups join fight against controversial permit application
Wednesday, September 21, 2016
Clean Harbors Hearing set in company’s request to discharge into Dickinson bayou
Wednesday, May 11, 2016
CLEAN HARBORS SAN LEON TCEQ Permit No.: WQ0004086000 Final Plea For Appeal For Hearing
Saturday, July 18, 2015
DICKINSON BAYOU NEEDS TO BE SAVED, NO MORE TREATED OR NON TREATED WATER DISCHARGE PERMITS
Terry S. Singeltary Sr., Bacliff, Texas, USA, Galveston Bay
SINGELTARY SHORT SUBMISSION
CLEAN HARBORS SAN LEON TCEQ
Permit No.: WQ0004086000
Greetings TCEQ et al,
I kindly wish to submit my strong opposition for any permit for CLEAN HARBORS SAN LEON TCEQ Permit No.: WQ0004086000, to allow any treated or non-treated waste water, or anything else, to be allowed to be discharged into the Dickinson Bayou watershed or nearby locations adjacent to Dickinson Bay, inside of Galveston bay.
The Public needs to be able to comment on this, and should.
The Dickinson Bayou watershed has been so strained environmentally due to many reasons over the past decades, some reasons include Livestock, Pets, faulty septic systems, agricultural activities, urban run-off and what all that contains, pesticide runoff, waste water treatment plants, just to name a few, but now we have an industrial complex that wants to grow at the mouth of Dickinson Bayou, a Bayou that already has studies that show it’s very sluggish in terms of tidal movement, and a Bayou that has consistently been in trouble, year after year after decade.
In my opinion, I believe one of the main reasons that causes this, besides all the pollution, is the fact Dickinson Bayou needs to, should have been dredged, with a continuous dredge maintained from inside the mouth, and past the old grave yard, across those flats, on up until Dickinson Bayou gets deep, all the way to the ship channel.
The water quality in Dickinson Bayou, has been bad for some time due to little tidal movement. Just very recently, the Houston Chronicle ran an article on a workshop (see below in reference materials) on how to improve Dickinson Bayou due to unacceptably high levels of bacteria, posing possible health and environmental risks. so why would TCEQ or anyone allow such a permit to throw more fuel to the fire?
the old spillway inlet at the mouth of Dickinson Bayou, and outlet over on the Bacliff Side, is and has been dead in the water years and years, with no movement through there to help oxygenate the water, we have had numerous fish kills, with one massive flounder kill.
why can the ship channel have a continuous life time dredge for the tanker traffic, but yet never dredge Dickinson Bayou, when the Army Corp of Eng said long ago that this needed to be done to maintain a healthy Bayou? what are we waiting on?
Via the FOIA, I received the HL&P construction permits back in the 60’s, and the dredging that the Army Corp of engineers said would come and be maintained constantly.
That never happened.
This constant maintaining of a dredge was to be done all the way to the ship channel, to prevent just what has happened, and it says so in the permit.
see permit PDF in my reference materials below.
Until Dickinson Bayou is dredged out and all the way to the ship channel so Dickinson Bayou can breath again, anything else in my opinion will be futile.
with no changes to the plan to address the issue of dredging Dickinson Bayou to address the tidal flow issues, and proper flushing of Dickinson Bayou, all your going to have is a toilet that does not flush properly, that our children have been playing and swimming in, and consuming the seafood there from.
some kind of tourist attraction, welcome to the Toilet Bowl.
I strongly protest, and strongly object, in totality, to Permit No.: WQ0004086000 for CLEAN HARBORS SAN LEON TCEQ RN Number: RN100890235, please deny this permit. ...
Terry S. Singeltary Sr. Bacliff, Texas 77518
ENFORCEMENT FOR CLEAN HARBORS
Docket No. 2014-1366-PWS-E.
Consideration of an Agreed Order assessing administrative penalties and requiring certain actions of Clean Harbors San Leon, Inc. in Galveston County; RN100890235; for public drinking water violations pursuant to Tex. Health & Safety Code ch. 341 and the rules of the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality.
Item 35 Docket No. 2014-1366-PWS-E. Consideration of an Agreed Order assessing administrative penalties and requiring certain actions of Clean Harbors San Leon, Inc. in Galveston County; RN100890235; for public drinking water violations pursuant to Tex. Health & Safety Code ch. 341 and the rules of the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality. (Jessica Schildwachter, Candy Garrett) Approve the Agreed Order. ZC/TB; all agree.
An agreed order was entered regarding Clean Harbors San Leon, Inc., Docket No. 2014-1366-PWS-E on April 1, 2015, assessing $234 in administrative penalties with $234 deferred.
Terry S. Singeltary Sr. previous comment
Response to Public Comments Eight TMDLs for Indicator Bacteria in Dickinson Bayou and Three Tidal Tributaries (Segments 1103 and 1104)
November 12, 2013
Terry Singeltary (written)
The TCEQ efforts to bring back quality water, instead of polluted water to the Dickinson Bayou and its Tributaries, are greatly appreciated. However, I think it all will be futile, if Dickinson Bayou is not dredged out to where the water can flow freely with the tidal movements. I believe that due to Dickinson Bayou not being dredged and maintained properly, to allow for a maximum flow, by Houston Lighting and Power Co. (HL&P) is/was a cause to a great many of our problems in Dickinson Bayou, and surrounding waters. I also believe that HL&P, the Army, or the Army Corp of Engineers should foot the total bill for the dredging.
The TCEQ and local stakeholders in the Dickinson Bayou watershed have agreed to work together to reduce bacteria pollution in Dickinson Bayou and its tributaries, as described in the I-Plan document. At the same time, stakeholders in the watershed are continuing to explore ways to decrease the effects of pollution on Dickinson Bayou. The TCEQ does not have regulatory authority to compel private or public entities to dredge Texas waterways to improve flow. No changes were made to the I-Plan based on this comment.
Workshop to look at efforts to protect, improve Dickinson Bayou
By Annette Baird
Updated 1:10 pm, Tuesday, July 14, 2015
*** But the 100-square-mile watershed, from which water flows into Dickinson and Galveston bays, has been tested with unacceptably high levels of bacteria, posing possible health and environmental risks. ***
High concentrations of bacteria measured in Dickinson Bayou Tidal, Segment 1103, and four of its tributaries might pose a health risk for people who swim or wade in the bayou. Bacteria from human and animal waste may indicate the presence of disease-causing microorganisms that may cause illness.
Dickinson Bayou does not meet water quality standards for DO or pathogen indicator bacteria.
Dickinson Bayou does not meet water quality standards for DO or pathogen indicator bacteria.
*** Elevated bacteria (fecal coliform, Escherichia coli and Enterococcus) and depressed dissolved oxygen concentrations (often
Dickinson Bayou Special Study
Dickinson Bayou currently does not meet state requirements for aquatic life or contact recreation
According to the 2005 Galveston Bay Indicators Project, the areas of Galveston Bay with the greatest number of TCEQ criteria-level exceedences for fecal coliform bacteria are Buffalo Bayou, the Houston Ship Channel, Clear Creek, and Dickinson Bayou (Figure 5-60).
Public Health Issues
Clear Creek and Dickinson Bayou have levels of fecal coliform bacteria that exceed the screening levels used by TCEQ to determine which water bodies need to be listed as impaired for historical use. Both water bodies would be considered a health risk for contact recreation.
*** SEE HL&P PERMIT ABOUT MAINTAINING A CONSTANT DREDGE FOR DICKINSON BAYOU AND WHY ***
Saturday, July 18, 2015
DICKINSON BAYOU NEEDS TO BE SAVED, NO MORE TREATED OR NON TREATED WATER DISCHARGE PERMITS
Terry S. Singeltary Sr. Bacliff, Texas USA 77518 Galveston Bay firstname.lastname@example.org
Thank you for submitting your comments on this pending permit application. Thank you for submitting your comments on this pending permit application. You will receive an e-mail confirmation of your comments that you can print for your records.
*If you do not receive an e-mail confirmation within one hour, we HAVE NOT received your comments.
If you do not receive confirmation, please be sure to contact the Office of the Chief Clerk immediately at 512-239-3300. Please note, successfully submitting your comments online does not guarantee you filed them timely.
Sent: Monday, July 27, 2015 9:57 PM
Subject: TCEQ Confirmation: Your public comment on Permit Number WQ0004086000 was received.
Sunday, February 28, 2016
Oral Comments Public Meeting Clean Harbors San Leon, Inc. WQ0004086000 La Marque 14 01/25/16 Dickinson Bayou
Wednesday, January 6, 2016
CLEAN HARBORS, TCEQ, DICKINSON BAYOU, PUBLIC MEETING JANUARY 25, 2016
Tuesday, January 8, 2013
Dickinson Bayou: A TMDL Project and Use Assessment for Bacteria Troubled Waters
Dickinson Bayou: A TMDL Project and Use Assessment for Bacteria
Saturday, August 11, 2012
Galveston County BACLIFF TEXAS FLOUNDER FISH KILL MASSIVE AUGUST 11, 2012
(see video of the dead flounder floating)
Wednesday, August 12, 2015
GALVESTON BAY REPORT CARD 2015
Terry Singletary and I have been sampling water from Dickinson Bayou and monitoring continuous fish kills in efforts to get someone to understand the critical condition of this waterway for the past six years. The bayou has a high concentration of fecal matter (human excrement). This is due to an occasional upset in the sewage plants that dump into the bayou, and by old and broken septic tanks along the bayou’s edge. In sampling the dissolved oxygen concentration in the water, we have discovered that the oxygen content is depleted, causing over four miles of a “dead zone” which will not sustain aquatic life. This four mile dead zone is growing at approximately a quarter of a mile every year.
Harvey Rice Updated 2:45 pm, Monday, November 19, 2012
Photo: Brett Coomer, Houston Chronicle
Image 1 of 3
Steve Hoyland Sr., co-owner of the monthly SeaBreeze News, runs his boat through Dickinson Bayou. Concerned over fish kills, he hired a lab to test the quality of the water.
SAN LEON - Powering his small boat across Dickinson Bay, Steve Hoyland Sr. worries about fish kills near the mouth of Dickinson Bayou every summer for the last six years.
"I've lived here my whole life, but in the last two years you can't catch (anything)," said Hoyland, 61, part owner of the monthly San Leon Seabreeze News.
Hoyland points to the depth finder to show how silt has clogged the mouth of the bayou and prevented the tide from cleansing it with oxygenated water. "We've got a serious problem here," he said.
Officials charged with overseeing water quality say that fish kills, where thousands of fish die for lack of oxygen in the water, are a symptom of urban encroachment on bayous like Dickinson that lace the Houston region. The urbanized area in the Dickinson Bayou watershed more than doubled between 2002 and 2008.
The 27 miles of Dickinson Bayou that snake through Galveston and Brazoria counties are plagued with low oxygen levels that occasionally kill fish. The bayou is filled with bacteria that can cause illness to swimmers and pollutants such as oil, pesticides, human waste from septic tanks and animal waste washed into the bayou through storm drains.
Of 139 water bodies in Harris and Galveston counties, 91 have excessive bacteria levels that make them unsafe for human contact, 21 have low dissolved oxygen levels and in 33 the cancer-causing toxic contaminants dioxin and PCB have been found in fish tissue, according to the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality. The bacteria levels in Buffalo Bayou, for example, are generally higher than Dickinson Bayou and pesticides are found in the tissue of fish there in addition to dioxin and PCB, the TCEQ says.
In Dickinson Bayou, E. coli and enteroccus bacteria levels are more than double the federal standard, said Todd Running, clean rivers program manager for the Houston-Galveston Area Council. The federal standard for E. coli is 126 colonies per 100 milliliters of water, Running said, but the levels in the bayou range from 247 to 1,645. The standard for enteroccus, a bacteria measured in the tidal area of the bayou because of its resistance to saltwater, is 35, he said, but bayou levels range from 373 to 8,485.
Public not aware
State and local agencies are working on plans to reduce pollution in the bayous, but they take years to complete and rely on the cooperation of a public that is largely unaware that seemingly unimportant things like leaving pet waste in the yard contribute to the thousands of small incidents that add up to tons of pollution washed through storm drains into the bayou. The TCEQ says that the most common sources of bacteria are wastewater treatment plants, stormwater runoff, septic tank overflows and failures, and broken sewer lines.
Runoff from residences
"All of our urban streams have issues and it's a result of more people living in the area, more pipes that are more likely to break, plus it's runoff from our yards and our streets and our parking lots," said Charris York, stormwater projects coordinator for the Texas Coastal Watershed Program.
Excess yard fertilizer, household chemicals, septic tank leakage and illegal discharges from wastewater treatment plants add to the load of pollutants draining from 106 square miles of Dickinson Bayou watershed.
There are 11 wastewater treatment plants on Dickinson Bayou. The TCEQ issued its most recent violation notice to KC Utilities in August. The commission fined Meadowland utilities $132,000 in December for seven violations.
The TCEQ estimates that there are 1,546 failing septic tanks in the Dickinson Bayou watershed.
Hoyland published several articles calling attention to the poor water quality at the mouth of the bayou.
He took two experts from Eastex Environmental Laboratory Inc. out on his boat to take water samples at the mouth of Dickinson Bayou and a nearby intake channel cut for the now abandoned Houston Power & Light generating plant that once pulled water from Dickinson Bay for cooling.
"We found areas of concern with dissolved oxygen levels," said Mark Bourgeois, one of the Eastex analysts who took the samples.
Low oxygen levels are typical during the summer on the sluggishly flowing bayou, said Winston Denton, upper coast assessment team leader for the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department. The long list of documented fish kills because of low oxygen stretches back to the 1970s when federal clean water laws first required reporting.
Call for dredging
Hoyland believes that dredging the mouth of the bayou would allow tidal flows to wash oxygen into the bayou mouth. TCEQ oxygen readings show that on average the bayou's tidal area, unlike the rest of the bayou, meets state oxygen level standards.
Oxygen levels fluctuate, however, and Running said that dredging has improved water quality at the mouth of other bayous, but that there is no guarantee that it would work on Dickinson Bayou.
The TCEQ and local agencies are developing a plan to reduce the pollution to acceptable levels that likely will combine regulations with voluntary compliance. The plan is being written with the assistance of local businesses, cities and residents. "We have a lot of input from different folks who have knowledge," York said. The plan has been in the works for about two years and the draft is expected to be ready for public review early next year, she said.
Meanwhile Hoyland continues to write about water quality problems and hopes that a plan to build a new wastewater treatment plant nearby will include dredging the mouth of Dickinson Bayou. "It would be a great thing if they do something good for the environment," he said.
Terry S. Singeltary Sr., Bacliff, Texas, USA
on the bottom...Galveston Bay