Call to Action! – An Update on TMCC’s Opposition to SouthWaste Permit
by William Morfey, TMCC President
As many of you are already aware, the SouthWaste Services (SouthWaste) waste processing plant at 6407 Hurst has filed a request with the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ) for an amendment to its waste processing permit that will allow it to process nearly 50% more. SouthWaste processes materials such as grease trap waste and septage (from porto-potties, etc.). Due to SouthWaste’s terrible track record of disbursing nuisance odors into the surrounding area, as well as other nuisance-type activities including creating traffic problems around its facility, TMCC is on record as opposing this permit application.
On July 30, TCEQ held a second public meeting on the application. A number of people showed up to voice their opposition to the permit amendment, including TMCC representatives, affected neighbors and business owners, and a representative from the City of Houston Department of Health and Human Services. Although TCEQ has not yet announced a decision on whether or not the application will be granted, many of the meeting attendees expressed concern and displeasure with TCEQ’s lack of acknowledgment of the existence of an odor problem. To the astonishment of many, when asked if it acknowledges the existence of an odor issue, the TCEQ representatives answered by stating to the audience that TCEQ had not been able to confirm the existence of an odor problem. Huh?
Let’s put that last item into perspective. Despite receiving at least 56 formal complaints since 2013; despite receiving nearly 700 comments in opposition to the permit application during its roughly two year pendency; despite being told by a City of Houston engineer that the City has previously cited the SouthWaste facility for violations and issued nuisance fines, all the while receiving odor complaints on at least a weekly basis; despite being told by SouthWaste that at least a quarter of a million dollars is being invested by the facility in an effort to curtail odors; and despite the fact that this facility, which handles large quantities of some of the smelliest materials generated by human activity, is located in close proximity to residences, churches, and other businesses, TCEQ does not believe there is an odor problem.
Folks, something stinks here. And it isn’t just SouthWaste.
The TCEQ mission statement reads, “The Texas Commission on Environmental Quality strives to protect our state's public health and natural resources consistent with sustainable economic development. Our goal is clean air, clean water, and the safe management of waste.” It seems clear that TCEQ is failing us in their mission.
As of the date of authoring this article, two Houston City Council members (Ellen Cohen and Stephen Costello) have told TMCC that they also object to the permit amendment without a viable solution to the odor problem. The Council Members indicated that they will be looking into what the City can do to help the situation, but at a minimum they will be issuing a letter to TCEQ stating their opposition. But understand that TCEQ is a State agency that is not under the jurisdiction of City officials.
While it is great to receive assistance from our local elected representatives, we need to support their efforts by documenting and making odor/nuisance complaints with TCEQ (and others). Accordingly, this is a request to all neighbors to make formal complaints about any and all nuisance activities concerning the SouthWaste facilities, including but not limited to odor and traffic complaints. We must help ourselves by diligently making these reports, so that TCEQ and others cannot ignore us! Some of you may find yourselves making multiple reports each week or even each day, but that is what needs to be done if the nuisance is that frequent.
Report! Report! Record!
Each time a nuisance condition is detected from SouthWaste, it should be reported to both TCEQ and the City of Houston, and should also be recorded in your personal Odor Log as follows:
REPORT to Texas Commission on Environmental Quality - Houston Regional Complaint Center Call 713-767-3641 or; File online: http://www2.tceq.texas.gov/oce/complaints/index.cfm
REPORT to City of Houston - Health and Human Services Dept., Bureau of Pollution Control and Prevention Use the 311 Smartphone App or; Call 311 during normal business hours (832-393-5730 after hours) or; File online: http://www.houstontx.gov/health/Environmental/bpcp_complaints.html
RECORD in your Odor Log TCEQ provides an Odor Log form at www.tceq.texas.gov/assets/public/compliance/odor-log-public.pdf or; Create your own log noting date, time, duration, wind direction, temperature and your location.
Please copy TMCC with your written communications, or forward your Odor Log data, to firstname.lastname@example.org so that TMCC can keep a master record of everything, for later use, as necessary.
Although this process is tedious, it is important. It gives this issue maximum exposure and documentation. Thanks for your help!