Almost half of the state’s major industrial facilities released illegal levels of pollution into waterways during a 21-month period ending September 2017, far exceeding the rest of the county in illegal polluting, according to a new report.

Of the 8,148 incidents of pollution exceeding federal safety levels in U.S. waters between January 2016 and September 2017, Texas businesses accounted for 938 of those incidents, according to a report by Frontier Group and Environment America Research and Policy Center.

Pennsylvania companies had the second highest for any state with 633 incidents of illegal polluting in waterways, according to the report.

The Trump administration has rarely penalized companies for violating federal clean waters laws and polluting rivers, bays and other waterways around Texas, according to the report. And proposed cuts to the Environmental Protect Agency’s budget further reduce the emphasis on enforcement, the report stated.

“Though the Clean Water Act has made some progress bringing our waters back to health, a closer look at compliance with and enforcement of the law reveals an overly lenient system that too often allows pollution without accountability,” the authors wrote.

“State and federal agencies are failing to take strong enforcement action to stop these rampant excess discharges of pollution into America’s waters.”

The groups analyzed self-reported industry data submitted to the federal government and found 40 percent of major industrial facilities had at least one instance in which the company had exceeded its allowable discharge and dumped excess pollution into a waterway.

In Texas, about half of the major industrial facilities had an instance of illegal water pollution and many had multiple excesses, according to the report.

The state’s ranking is largely related to having a high number of industrial facilities because the state is home to many large cities and the nation’s largest petrochemical and refining industry, according to the study.

Most of the companies polluted without penalty from state or federal environmental agencies, according to the report. Those that were fined often had minimal penalties. In 2017, the median fine assessed by the Environmental Protection Agency was lower than in any year since 2011, according to the report.

“Each year from 2011 to 2017, an average of 27,849 facilities were non-compliant across the U.S., while an average of 13,076 — less than half — faced any EPA or state enforcement action,” the report stated.

Proposed cuts likely will lead to even fewer penalties for violations of the Clean Water Act, the study’s authors said. For fiscal year 2019, the administration plans to cut the Environmental Protection Agency’s budget for civil enforcement of environmental protection programs, including the Clean Water Act, by $30.4 million, according to the report.

Marissa Barnett: 409-683-5257; marissa.barnett@galvnews.com

Senior Reporter

(26) comments

Carlos Ponce

"The state’s ranking is largely related to having a high number of industrial facilities because the state is home to many large cities and the nation’s largest petrochemical and refining industry, according to the study." Obvious.
Does Texas rank among the top 10 States with the Most Permit Exceedances per Major Industrial Facility? No. The top ten includes West Virginia, Iowa, Missouri, Colorado, Ohio, Nebraska, Arkansas, Nevada, Pennsylvania and Wyoming.
Does Texas rank in the top 10 States with the Worst Facility Exceedance Rates? No.
Does Texas rank in the top 10 states with the Highest Percentage of Facilities Exceeding 100 Percent of Their Permit Limit? No.
Simply put Texas ranks high because of the state's large number of petrochemical and refining plants as the article states. Texas has 269 Major industrial facilities. The "worst" offender is Buckeye Texas Processing LLC, in Nueces County. The receiving water body is Corpus Christi Inner Harbor But under "Receiving Water Impaired?" column you see "NO". The only "YES"es in that column all come from Harris County: Equistar Chemicals, LP And Lyondellbasell Acetyls, LLC, Total Petrochemicals & Refining USA Inc, and Shell Oil Company, which feed into San Jacinto Bay, Tucker Bayou and Patrick Bayou respectively.
Before passing judgement read the actual report:
https://frontiergroup.org/sites/default/files/reports/EA_TroubledWaters_scrn.pdf
Saying "Texas ranks first in Water pollution" is like saying adults wear larger clothing than babies. The size fits as expected.

Ron Woody

Thank you Mr. Ponce. Did you also like how Mr. Trump is blamed for all of it when he was President for only 8 months of a 20 month report. Or the fact that it does not appear as his administration's discipline/enforcement/penalty varies much from previous administrations. Then their is the fact of refusing to give the percent of EPA's budget the $30 million may be. Is it an actual cut or a reductio in budget growth. The deceit and decption never stops or is it just ignorance?

Gary Scoggin

Agree with this. These cases take time to develop and settle. We’re not deep enough into the Trump Administration to make judgements on their approach.

Jim Forsythe

“Now the public, not the polluter, will have to pay to clean the water. And it is much cheaper to prevent pollution than to clean it up after the fact." To try and justify the amount of pollution that Texas releases into the air and water, by saying other states are worse, is just ignoring the fact that Texas has a large problem. The question should be, what are we going to do about it. Of the 269 Major industrial facilities in Texas ,132 facilities had exceedance of permits, 72 exceedances were >100% permit limit and 40 exceedance were >500% permit limit. These were just the Major industrial facilities , and did not include the Thousands of small industrial facilities in Texas .
https://frontiergroup.org/sites/default/files/reports/EA_TroubledWaters_scrn.pdf
Water quality reports indicate that 45% of U.S. streams, 47 percent of lakes, and 32 percent of bays are polluted. Forty percent of America’s rivers are too polluted for fishing, swimming or aquatic life. The lakes are even worse ,over 46% are too polluted for fishing, swimming, or aquatic life.Every year almost 25% of U.S. beaches are closed at least once because of water pollution.
Is this acceptable to you, if so , we need to do nothing. If it is not, it will only get worse, unless we do more.

Carlos Ponce

Since you cite the same website did you note there is an allowable amount to discharge into waterways? It is when these industries EXCEED the allowable amounts that the government takes action. If you have ever relieved your bladder in the Gulf of Mexico, technically you have polluted it.[scared]

Jim Forsythe

Urinating in the Gulf of Mexico is not a large factor for the Gulf's pollution total.
When a company is in exceedance of permits, they have surpassed the amount allowed. For a company to be in exceedance of >500% permit limit, it should trouble everyone. If you are happy that a company almost bust a permitted level, but does not exceeds the level ,then you are happy with pollution in our water and air. The goal should be zero pollution, not the most that they can get away with, and not receive a fine.

Carlos Ponce

Zero Pollution? Nature has a way of cleaning up certain amount of pollutants such as your urine and a certain amount of industrial pollution. It is when they exceed the recommended amount that there is a problem. Most of the Texas companies listed have not exceeded the expected and permitted. Those that exceed number only 4. The government will take care of them. Calling for zero pollution is unnecessary. Nature will take care of the average polluters.

Jim Forsythe

Of the 269 Major industrial facilities in Texas ,132 facilities had exceedance of permits, 72 exceedances were >100% permit limit and 40 exceedance were >500% permit limit.

Carlos Ponce

Look under "Receiving Water Impaired?" Only THREE had a "YES"
Equistar Chemicals, LP And Lyondellbasell Acetyls, LLC, , Total Petrochemicals &
Refining USA Inc, and Shell Oil Company all in Harris County. See page 58. The bottom line is IF impaired the receiving water. With the exception of those THREE the answer is "NO".

Jim Forsythe

Which permits are you talking about that only 4 were exceeded? The one a facility has to run?
Of the 269 Major industrial facilities in Texas ,132 facilities had exceedance of permits, 72 exceedances were >100% permit limit and 40 exceedance were >500% permit limit.

Carlos Ponce

"Receiving Water Impaired?" Jim,
No, No , No, No, No, No, No, No, No, No...
Since there was NO damage to the water system perhaps the bar was set too low.
Only THREE had a yes.
That's the column to look at.

Jim Forsythe

-Most company's do a outstanding job of controlling their products No company has the goal of leaks. If you have not worked in a refinery, you may not know what chemicals are used. If you knew what they could do if released, you would not want any release in air or water. Companies goal is not to release at all, let alone up to the max allowed. In the past , some companies did do bad things. This is why, as of September 6, 2017, there are 53 Superfund sites on the National Priorities List in Texas Three are in Galveston county, Malone Service Company, Inc., Motco, Inc., Tex-Tin Corp.
Some examples of what is stored, that could cause bad results.
"Just outside Pearland, theater patrons come and go within 200 feet of a warehouse that stockpiles a pesticide so toxic it seeped into a family’s house in Utah and killed two little girls.
A metal forging company about a half-mile from Cy-Fair High School stores 27 chemicals, including titanium, a material that blew up at a golf club manufacturer in Los Angeles and leveled a city block.
And in Crosby, a public sports complex is close to a plant that houses explosive organic peroxides, a class of chemicals used in terror attacks in Paris and Brussels.
All over America and across greater Houston, capital of the nation’s petrochemical industry, hundreds of chemicals pose serious threats to public safety at facilities that may be unknown to most neighbors and are largely unpoliced by government at all levels, a yearlong Houston Chronicle (https://bit.ly/1VSg45P) investigation reveals."
Some chemicals can not be reduced to a safe point, even with filtering. One example .Hexavalent chromium [Cr(VI)] is one of the valence states (+6) of the element chromium. It is usually produced by an industrial process. Cr(VI) is known to cause cancer. In addition, it targets the respiratory system, kidneys, liver, skin and eyes. It is found in drinking water, because of the past
."Chromium-6 leads to cancer as well as birth defects and other threats to human health. While it’s unknown how many smaller residential communities also face contamination from chromium-6, it’s safe to assume that there are several. Unfortunately, this substance is very hard to filter out of water sources, and most places where it’s present are unable to get rid of it completely. This means that some individuals drink water contaminated with chromium-6 for their whole lives "

-Most company's do a outstanding job of controlling their products No company has the goal of leaks. If you have not worked in a refinery, you may not know what chemicals are used. If you knew what they could do if released, you would not want any release in air or water. Companies goal is not to release at all, let alone up to the max allowed. In the past , some companies did do bad things. This is why, as of September 6, 2017, there are 53 Superfund sites on the National Priorities List in Texas Three are in Galveston county.,Malone Service Company, Inc., Motco, Inc., Tex-Tin Corp.
Some examples of what is stored, that could cause bad results.
"Just outside Pearland, theater patrons come and go within 200 feet of a warehouse that stockpiles a pesticide so toxic it seeped into a family’s house in Utah and killed two little girls.
A metal forging company about a half-mile from Cy-Fair High School stores 27 chemicals, including titanium, a material that blew up at a golf club manufacturer in Los Angeles and leveled a city block.
And in Crosby, a public sports complex is close to a plant that houses explosive organic peroxides, a class of chemicals used in terror attacks in Paris and Brussels.

All over America and across greater Houston, capital of the nation’s petrochemical industry, hundreds of chemicals pose serious threats to public safety at facilities that may be unknown to most neighbors and are largely unpoliced by government at all levels, a yearlong Houston Chronicle (https://bit.ly/1VSg45P) investigation reveals."
Some chemicals can not be reduced to a safe point, even with filtering. One example.Hexavalent chromium [Cr(VI)] is one of the valence states (+6) of the element chromium. It is usually produced by an industrial process. Cr(VI) is known to cause cancer. In addition, it targets the respiratory system, kidneys, liver, skin and eyes. It is found in drinking water, because of the past
."Chromium-6 leads to cancer as well as birth defects and other threats to human health. While it’s unknown how many smaller residential communities also face contamination from chromium-6, it’s safe to assume that there are several. Unfortunately, this substance is very hard to filter out of water sources, and most places where it’s present are unable to get rid of it completely. This means that some individuals drink water contaminated with chromium-6 for their whole lives "

Gary Scoggin

Just a point out here. Cr+6 hasn’t been used in many years. All the cooling tower basins, etc. were cleaned out decades ago. It’s long gone from industrial water systems. I remember this well, Jim. I was the guy that delivered the message to our plant management that it had to go.

Jim Forsythe

Gary true, but we were not the only plants that used it .
Is anyone still using it in a industrial setting?
My point was not clear, that it does not just go away.
We were proactive when some were not, thanks to people like you..

Gary Scoggin

Interesting, Jim. I thought it had been banned in the US but the Wiki tells me no. Maybe it’s just banned for cooling water usage.

Jim Forsythe

Electroplating, looks like they are trying to reduce it's use.
Just as we had to address welding of Nichol, Chrome welding had to be addressed. Each of the products that we used were safer to use and handle, because of better understanding over the years of how to use it the safest way.

Diane Turski

We certainly can do more to address the problem of our state legislators and U.S. representatives cutting the EPA budgets, cutting staff, reversing laws, and not enforcing regulations that are designed to protect US from the greed of the special interest groups who donate to and lobby our "representatives"! We can vote in Nov. for representatives at the state and at the U.S. level who actually represent OUR interests!!!

Carlos Ponce

What if they set up a speed trap on I-45, dropping the speed limit suddenly from 65 mph to 30 mph. Would that be fair especially if it's done for the "safety" of drivers (not to mention the increase in revenues from fines)? That's tantamount to what the EPA under Obama did - overreach. What was a fair limit on emissions and pollutants during The Bill Clinton and George W. Bush administrations were made more strict, stricter than they should be. The EPA under Obama was out of control. Trump is just rolling it back to pre-Obama levels. Does that mean Trump is for dirty air and dirty water? Only a fool would believe that.

Jim Forsythe

What pollutants are you in favor of increasing the amount of, that we have to breath and drink? You want to increase the amounts ,why? Will that increase,make the quality of life for Americans better? You may want to drink polluted water and breath air that is a threat to your health if you breath it, but I do not.

"Between 2010 and 2016, which makes up the bulk of his presidency, the concentrations of all six air pollutants the EPA monitors decreased, some by as much as 77 percent. This makes sense, because cars, power plants, factories and other sources decreased emissions of these pollutants during this same period.
Under the Clean Air Act, the EPA regulates carbon monoxide, lead, nitrogen dioxide, ground level ozone, particle pollution and sulfur dioxide."

Carlos Ponce

As long as it has ZERO, ZIP, NADA effect on the water, those in use by Trump's EPA are adequate. Now if has an effect on the water as those THREE in Texas, then that's too much. Each body of water is different.

Steve Fouga

Carlos, my sense is that you think our water is too clean. Maybe our air too. My impression is that you think it's too clean because saying otherwise would mean disagreeing with the idiot Trump. Is that right? [whistling]

Carlos Ponce

"Carlos, my sense is that you think our water is too clean. Maybe our air too. "
Wake up Steve! Your senses are way off! There is pollution. Eliminate mankind from the equation and there would still be pollution from volcanoes, naturally caused fires, etc. Even in Southeast Texas we get African dust. See " How Much Does African Dust Add to Houston’s Pollution?"
http://www.uh.edu/news-events/stories/2014/February/0224ChellamSaharan.php
https://www.houstonchronicle.com/news/houston-texas/houston/article/African-dust-eyed-as-local-air-quality-culprit-5283234.php
When God created nature He built in natural forces to remedy a certain amount of pollutants. Look at the results from the EPA studies. Is water quality impaired? In Texas all but three the answer is "NO" according to the EPA. Too clean? Not for those three in nearby Harris County.

Jim Forsythe

We will not receive new water, and we must take care of what we have.

Carlos , your take is it ok to add controlled chemical's, as long as it does not go over a set amount ,even to a toxic water sources that is used for drinking water.. My take is why add to the already compromised water systems. Clean water should be the goal for all.
Not, our water has pollutants added by man, and it can take more, even to the point that we must treat the water with more chemicals to make it safer to drink.

"As long as it has ZERO, ZIP, NADA effect on the water"
Anytime you add bad to water or air, it results in adding bad to what already has pollutants in it.
"He built in natural forces to remedy a certain amount of pollutants." Instead of getting rid of the arsenic in the following, Mother Nature is adding more. This is not a isolated case.
It would be legal to add more arsenic to the following water source, but it would add to their problems. By adding more to a already polluted source, is not good. and may cause more health problems.
"The 65 Texas water systems with excessive levels of arsenic are mostly in small towns or rural areas clustered in West Texas and near the Gulf Coast . Some of these systems serve mobile home parks that house low-income residents. Together, these 65 public systems with arsenic-tainted water serve more than 82,000 people.About 51,000 residents in 34 communities have been exposed to contaminated drinking water for at least a decade, many at levels several times higher than the arsenic limit. At least 30,000 of these residents were likely exposed to concentrations of arsenic at levels at least twice the federal standard in 2014 and 2015, according to state data."

Carlos, would you drink water that has dioxin in it? Would you? If so ,how much dioxin you want in the water you drink?

Carlos Ponce

"as long as it does not go over a set amount." Levels determined safe by Obama until his last year in office and previous administrations. Consider this "payback" for the environmentalists who backed Obama's campaigns and also a monkey wrench for future administrations. Strange because Obama believed Hillary would win in 2016, the year the EPA implemented these stringent regs.

Jim Forsythe

You may want to increase the amount of poisons that is already in our water, but I do not. Some of the regulated chemicals that you do not want to increase the amount of, that is already in the water.
Antimony, arsenic, asbestos, barium, beryllium, cadmium, chromium, copper, cyanide, , lead, mercury, nitrate, nitrite, selenium, and thallium.
Here are a few more. Benzene, dioxin (2,3,7,8-TCDD), PCBs, styrene, toluene, vinyl chloride and several pesticides.
Of the above , which do you think we do not have enough of, in our water.
Why would you want to increase the amount of products like the ones above in our lakes and streams, why?


Vinyl chloride


,benzene, dioxin (2,3,7,8-TCDD), PCBs, styrene, toluene, vinyl chloride and several pesticides.[

Radionuclides
EPA has issued standards for alpha particles, beta particles and photon emitters, radium and uranium.


Gary Scoggin

A few thoughts from a guy who made a living in this business for better than three decades....

First... the dose makes the poison. As you reduce levels of pollutants in air or water you reach a point where any additional improvement creates very little additional public health benefit but does create high costs of compliance. For example, EPA recently lowered acceptable 8 hr ozone levels from 75 ppb to 70 ppb. The cost for compliance is high; the public health benefit is relatively small. Compare this to when ozone levels were routinely over 150 ppb and there were strong correlations between high ozone days and ER visits due to respiratory problems. We did well for people in making the progress we did and nobody is suggesting going back to the bad old days. The lesson is that we reach a point of diminishing returns and, as a society, we need to move on to other pollutants or other public health problems.

Second. We have made incredible progress in the quality of our environment. I think that those who grew up in Texas City in the 40's and 50's will agree. Our local environment has improved dramatically since I arrived here in the late 70's. But here's my favorite example. When the current water supply system for New York City was designed around 1900, the primary indicator of water quality was the number of cholera deaths per thousand people. Today we measure dioxins in parts per quintillion.

Third, all pollutants are not created equal. Some such as mercury and other metals bioaccumulate in the food supply and can build to concerning levels. Others, such as most organics degrade in the environment rather quickly. (This is not true of PCPs and some other complex compounds.)

Fourth, let's talk aboud administrations. As someone who has watched EPA for many years, Lisa Jackson's EPA under President Obama was the most politicized EPA Administrator I have ever seen. (And I'm a guy who generally supported Obama.) It not only an issue of setting standards that were too strict (I once worked on a permit where we were given a Mercury discharge limit of 12 ppt but our incoming water, from the same water body, had a concentration of 13 ppt) but it was also the political and arbitrary way EPA used it's enforcement discretion. I could write a book on this but suffice it to say, it was quite unfair.

Last, let's talk about thermodynamics. The second law says entropy always increases and, as such, there is no free lunch. We will always create some waste or some by-product through our activities. The ramifications are that we should always try to minimize them and, when possible take advantage of renewable sources where the energy from the sun can counteract the entropy. But we have to be realistic that we will always be combating this issue.

Welcome to the discussion.

Keep it Clean. Please avoid obscene, vulgar, lewd, racist or sexually-oriented language.
PLEASE TURN OFF YOUR CAPS LOCK.
Don't Threaten. Threats of harming another person will not be tolerated.
Be Truthful. Don't knowingly lie about anyone or anything.
Be Nice. No racism, sexism or any sort of -ism that is degrading to another person.
Be Proactive. Use the 'Report' link on each comment to let us know of abusive posts.
Share with Us. We'd love to hear eyewitness accounts, the history behind an article.

Thank you for Reading!

Please log in, or sign up for a new account and purchase a subscription to read or post comments.