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 Downwinders At Risk - Press Room: May 2003

Friday, May 23, 2003

TCEQ Backslides on Monitoring As Pollution Prevails in North Texas the State Environmental Agency Allows Removal of Pollution Monitoring Devices at Re

(Dallas, Texas -- Friday, May 16, 2003) This week the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ) approved a permit amendment that will allow for the removal of pollution control monitoring at the region’s largest industrial polluter. Texas Industries (TXI) the controversial cement kiln which burns both hazardous waste and tires as a fuel source received permission this week from the state environmental agency to remove pollution control monitoring devices.

TXI which manufactures portland cement is a commercial industrial and hazardous waste incinerator located in Midlothian, Texas. On March 19, 1999 following a contested case hearing TXI was granted a permit to burn hazardous waste for a period of ten years.

“During the hearing the only concession granted to citizens was the telemetric monitoring system that TXI has now been granted the right to remove” said Becky Bornhorst, Co-Chair, Downwinders At Risk. “This is another example of the agencies willingness to rollback the publics right-to-know in favor of TXI.”

In response to the 94 commenters the TCEQ stated that the “Executive Director does not agree that disconnecting TXI’s telemetric system constitutes a roll-back in the public’s right-to-know” and disagrees that the “telemetric system is a useful tool”. This response mirrors that of TCEQ Commissioner Ralph Marquez. Commissioner Marquez in a joint hearing before Congress stated that “The problem, Congressman [Joe Barton], is that placing a new monitor is taking a great risk that if a monitor shows an exceedance of 1 hour (the measurement for an ozone day), it may cause for a new area now to become non-attainment. So the practical reality is that people do not want to put additional monitors.” [1]

Translation: The agency wouldn’t want to know what’s happening at a facility or in a county in regards to air pollution because they’ll be asked to do something about it.

The controversy over the real time data link mounted last summer when TXI began its trial burn for tires. Last summer, citizens in the area complained to the agency over an odor that was coming from the facility and asked the TCEQ to investigate the compliant. After following-up, Debbie Markwartz discovered that the telemetric monitoring system was offline.

“I called the agency, after smelling this horrific odor coming from TXI. I knew that they were beginning to burn tires in their kiln in an experimental process” said Markwartz. “I was shocked to learn that the monitoring on TXI’s stacks had not been working during a period of two months.”

Coincidentally, the link to the agency went offline as the plant began a practice run for its new tire burning process.
[1] Testimony of R.B. (Ralph) Marquez, Commissioner Texas Natural Resource Conservation Commission to the Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations and the Subcommittee on Health and the Environment of the Committee on Commerce House of Representatives (104th Congress) November 9, 1995, Serial No. 104-55.