• Thu. Nov 24th, 2022

Texas Waterway Pollution Is the Nation’s Worst, New Report Says (VIDEO)

ByRobin H. Purcell

Nov 24, 2022

Patrick Bayou is an EPA Superfund site where toxic chemicals flow directly into Houston’s shipping channel.

Texas has a dubious reputation for leading the nation in polluted waterways.

A new report relies on self-disclosed data from industrial plants provided to the EPA. The study counted 17 million pounds of toxic substances released into Texas waters in 2020 — up from about 13 million in 2009. Much of that is liquid waste: precursors to fertilizers make up 90% of that runoff. But lead, solvents, ammonia and other dangerous compounds were also present.

“Our state regulators and the Texas Environmental Quality Commission have a very poor track record of enforcing the law and holding polluters accountable for violating their Clean Water Act permits,” said Luke Metzger, director of Environment Texas.

To release industrial waste, companies submit permit applications to the State Commission for Environmental Quality.

“That’s a big part of the problem, you know, where it’s often cheaper for big polluters to pay a small fine, if they get a fine at all, than it is to invest in pollution control equipment or train their staff to deal with the pollution.” to avoid space from the start,” said Metzger.

The Texas Commission on Environmental Quality denies these criticisms, saying it “receives the reports as soon as they are submitted to the EPA and will conduct formal enforcement as appropriate.”

The pollution problem is not only invisible and insidious – it is also visible and toxic.

“Once you know what you’re looking for, you can’t help but find it. And then turtles, birds, crabs, fish think they are fish eggs. So if they’re swimming in the water, they’re going to ingest it and they’re not doing well,” said Charlotte Cisneros, executive director of the Galveston Bay Foundation.

Plastic pellets, called “nurdles,” routinely wash up along the Gulf Coast from Texas to Florida. They are the building blocks of plastic products and manufacturers routinely spill them.

“So there are a lot of organizations making these nurdles here along the shipping canal and all over the city. And they’re so small and light they escape the manufacturing process really easily, sometimes through rainwater or from, you know, a bag of pasta is punctured. And it doesn’t take too many to cause a big problem,” Cisneros said.

Cisneros says even though Texas is a bustling hub of oil and petrochemical companies, these hard-working neighbors don’t often clean up their messes. Instead, it is left to volunteer groups to help coordinate.

“Nurdles and other types of plastic pollution don’t degrade. They last a very, very long time,” Cisneros said.

Formosa Plastics is one such company and one of the few polluters to have been found liable in federal court. It is court-ordered to limit its pollution levels and is subject to surveillance. The company informed Newsy that it is complying. However, critics argue that the broader industry sees pollution as a cost of doing business due to minimal state regulation in Texas.

“You know, we’re the second most productive source of seafood in the country after the Chesapeake Bay. Also, marine mammals, whales and dolphins, all of which become overloaded with these toxic chemicals that can also affect their health,” Metzger said.

Whether liquid or solid, researchers say pollution is taking its toll on ecosystems.

“If I was walking down the street and throwing my cup out the window, there are actually laws that say you can be fined up to $200 or whatever for the city you’re in.” said Jace Tunnell, director at the University of Texas Ocean Institute. “The same responsibility must apply to the industry that handles plastic pellets. You know, the general public has no say in what the industry is doing.”

Tunnell directs the Nurdle Patrol at the University of Texas Marine Institute in Port Aransas.

“We’re trying to find out where the highest concentrations are to create awareness of specific problems in those places,” Tunnell said.

The group has recruited hundreds of volunteers to track the harmful pellets and show how far they have spread.

“I’ve been to some of the fence lines where some of these facilities have said they’re making changes and I’ve found nurdles. So I haven’t seen a real reduction in plastic getting past their fence line yet,” Tunnell said.

This lack of action, he says, has high public health, environmental and economic costs.