Texas worst for unauthorized industrial water pollution

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Environment Texas Research and Policy Center

AUSTIN – 132 industrial facilities dumped excessive pollution into Texas waterways 938 times over 21 months, more than any other state in the nation, according to a new report by Environment Texas Research and Policy Center.  The facilities rarely faced penalties for this pollution.  Environment Texas’ Troubled Waters report comes as the Trump administration tries to weaken clean water protections and slash enforcement funding for the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the states.

“All Texas waterways should be clean for swimming, drinking water, and wildlife,” said Luke Metzger, Executive Director of Environment Texas.  “But industrial polluters are still dumping chemicals that threaten our health and environment, and no one is holding them accountable.”

In reviewing Clean Water Act compliance data from January 2016 through September 2017, Environment Texas Research and Policy Center and Frontier Group found that major industrial facilities are regularly dumping pollution beyond legal limits set to protect human health and the environment, in Texas and across the country.   

For example, the report shows that Intercontinental Terminals Company in Harris County discharged cyanide in to the impaired Tucker Creek eight times above permitted levels – once as high as 1138% above the permit. Facilities owned by Arkema, Dow, Exxon, Vopak, Shell, Chevron, and others all exceeded their clean water permit limits.

The report also shows that polluters rarely face penalties, and recommends several measures to ensure stronger enforcement of, and protection for, clean water. Unfortunately, decision makers in Washington could soon make the pattern of pollution worse. 

“Enforcement of environmental law is crucial to ensuring that the public health is protected,” said Victor Flatt, Chair of the Environment, Energy, and Natural Resources (EENR) Center at the University of Houston Law Center. “This report shows that Clean Water Act enforcement continues to suffer, and in fact is likely getting worse.  Proposed budget cuts to the EPA will make future enforcement even more difficult.  Law without enforcement is no law at all.  We must demand that our states and federal government require sources of pollution to control that pollution to protect our public health and the environment.” 

More than 1400 miles of Texas streams and rivers are so polluted they are classified as unsafe for basic uses such as swimming or fishing.

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Environment Texas Research & Policy Center works to protect clean water, clean air, and open spaces.  We investigate problems, craft solutions, educate the public and decision-makers, and help the public make their voices heard in local, state and national debates over the quality of our environment and our lives.