TCEQ Confirms Black Dust Covering Portland Neighborhoods Result of Permit Violations by Voestalpine

Photo Credit: Jeff Howard

The Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ) has released their report regarding their investigation into fugitive dust from Voestalpine.

A few salient points documented in the report:

  1. 3 violations found: failure to control the dust; storing outside instead of inside the facility; failure to seek authority to store outside.
  2. In their Request for a Permit by Rule (PBR) filed after the “dust” events, they said the shipments exceeded their capacity to store inside the facility as required by their original permit.  Rather than slow shipments down, they chose to knowingly violate their permit, not tell anyone, and create the mountains of material that caused the harm to residents.
  3. The size of the particulate matter (PM) is less than 10 microns and some of the samples reveal PM of less than 2.5.  That is the small material that can easily get in the lungs, resulting in respiratory problems, as well as mechanical eye irritation.
  4. The dust was found as much as 3 miles away from the plant.
  5. The documentation includes safety measures that should be in place to control the dust including wearing protective gear, storing it inside, AND keeping it away from water courses.  There is no doubt the dust would have fallen in and around the Green Lake drainage Ditch, Green Lake itself, and the surrounding vegetation and wetlands.  There is no evidence that TCEQ took samples from anywhere except the residences and no Environmental Impact Study was done.
  6. While no Toxicology Report was issued, there was a Health Risk Analysis conducted.  BUT, that analysis is sealed in a Confidential File.
  7. The Permit by Rule (PBR) was granted by TCEQ with the condition that they wet the mountains down.  A PBR that is issued usually supplements the original permit.  This may mean that they can now store outside indefinitely.

We’ll see how enforcement goes and if they are fined.  But, that doesn’t negate the fact that they knowingly violated their permit at the expense of citizens and those mountains will be there permanently.

You can read the entire 338 page report here.