Update on the Proposed Expansion of Southwaste Disposal

by Lorraine Cherry, TMCC Environmental Chair

As discussed in previous issues of the Timbergram, Southwaste Disposal, located on Hurst Street just west of section 5, submitted an application to the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ) to expand their operations. Southwaste processes grease waste from restaurants around the city and septic waste from the Harris County toll road stations, and their routine operations generate offensive odors that are an ongoing concern for the surrounding community. Last November, we reported that the TCEQ had responded to letters from the community by delaying approval of the proposed expansion (application No. 2241B) until another public meeting could be held. Since then, several months have passed and there has been no public meeting. What happened?

I spoke with the TCEQ in late January to get an update. They told me that Southwaste asked to have their application put on hold while they improved their current facility and was also exploring the idea of seeking a new location. The improvements, which they propose to make at the request of the new Grace Church, include construction of two new buildings to enclose a new air scrubber and the replacement of open storage basins with closed tanks. In addition, they would agree to suspend plant operations on Sundays. If implemented, these improvements would conceivably mitigate a great deal of the current odor problem.  Of course, the best solution to the odor problem would be for Southwaste to relocate, but a move to a new location would probably not be pursued if they proceed with the improvements to the current site.

What can be done in the meantime? You can file a 311 complaint (dial 311 or email 311@houstontx.gov, with a cc to Council Member Cohen’s office, districtc@houstontx.gov ) each time you experience the smell. Ask that your complaint be directed to the City of Houston Bureau of Pollution Control and Prevention.

There are specific issues that BPCP would like to have addressed in each odor pollution complaint:

  • Date, start time and end time of problem

  • Is it still occurring at the time that you make the complaint

  • Name and address of alleged source, type of operation [Southwaste Disposal, 6407 Hurst, Houston 77008; restaurant waste and sewage treatment and disposal]

  • Nature of pollution [e.g., foul smell]

  • Description of what it smells like, how it is affecting you

  • Intensity (very strong, strong, moderate, light, very light)

  • Offensiveness (highly offensive, offensive, unpleasant)

  • Weather conditions during incident (e.g., wind direction and speed, temp, etc.)

  • Has this happened before

  • Your name, address, phone, email

You may not be able to address all of these issues with each complaint (e.g., if you experience the bad smell as you are driving by on West 11th Street), but do the best you can.