Continuing Update on TMCC’s Opposition to SouthWaste Permit

by William Morfey, TMCC President In the last issue of the Timbergram, I reported on the status of TMCC’s opposition to the SouthWaste Services (“SouthWaste”) permit amendment application that is pending with the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (“TCEQ”).  Due to SouthWaste’s track record of causing nuisance odors in the surrounding area, as well as other nuisance-type activities, TMCC is on record as opposing the permit amendment application, which (if granted) would allow SouthWaste to process a much larger volume of materials.

Part of my last report described letters that Houston City Councilmembers Cohen and Costello were writing to TCEQ, voicing their opinion that no expansion permit should be granted until SouthWaste first demonstrates that it can operate without causing nuisance odors for at least six months. In that regard, SouthWaste has already received approval from TCEQ to install odor control equipment but reportedly has not yet received local building permits.  Thus, the odor control equipment is not yet operational.

Councilmember Costello’s office shared the response he received from Mr. Earl Lott, Director of TCEQ’s Waste Permits Division.  Because the letter was short, I will quote the single paragraph that provided the substance of the response:

“As you have correctly noted, SouthWaste sought, and has been granted, approval to construct and operate odor control equipment at the Hurst Street facility.  We anticipate that the odor control equipment will be in operation for at least six months prior to any resolution of the permit amendment application.  This should provide opportunities to monitor and evaluate the effectiveness of the odor control equipment.”

In this writer’s opinion, Mr. Lott’s letter is very carefully worded so as make  it look like TCEQ isn’t saying “no” to the request, even though it almost certainly the case that TCEQ will not do what was requested.  At the very least, this response calls into question what will happen if the odor equipment is not in operation for at least six months prior to a decision on the permit amendment application and/or there has not been an opportunity to monitor and evaluate its effectiveness.  And who is supposed to do any monitoring or evaluating?  And most importantly, what happens if an evaluation shows that the odor control equipment is not effective?  TCEQ has made no commitment to withhold the expansion permit under that circumstance!

I certainly hope that my pessimism proves to be misplaced.   However, if anyone shares my pessimism, I can only recommend continued vigilance and reporting of nuisance conditions as we did in the last Timbergram.

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:

  1. REPORT to Texas Commission on Environmental Quality - Houston Regional Complaint Center Call 713-767-3641 or; File online:

  2. 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:

  3. RECORD in your Odor Log TCEQ provides an Odor Log form at 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  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!