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Port Arthur official: City working to correct landfill issues after $39K TCEQ fine

The city of Port Arthur has been working on fulfilling all corrective measures to its landfill since it was notified of eight violations of state law last year, a city official said Tuesday.

The Texas Commission on Environmental Quality on July 2 approved a fine of $39,270 against the city for the violations, which were discovered during an investigation between Dec. 12-21, 2018. Port Arthur received a notice of enforcement from the TCEQ on March 8, 2019.

Public Works Director Alberto Elefaño said the city is participating in a supplemental environmental project with the Texas Association of Resource Conservation and Development Areas, or Texas RC&D, to pick up worn and torn tires from streets across the city. The project helped reduce the original fine against the city from $49,087, he said.

“That’s one we picked because we have a tire problem,” Elefaño said. “We have a lot of tires that have to be picked up. The state will come in and give us conditions on that. We’ll get the conditions on how the program will be run.

“That’s our main goal, to clean up the city. Every week, we pick up a lot of tires on the road.”

The reduced fine will be paid to the Texas RC&D, according to Elefaño.

Port Arthur committed eight violations against state municipal solid waste policy, the state water code and TCEQ rules, according to a TCEQ summary, at its landfill, located at 4732 Texas 73.

A complainant, who was not identified, alleged strong odors and insufficient daily cover, leading to the investigation. Complaint dates were listed as Dec. 10, 2018, and Jan. 3, 2019.

The violations listed were:

  • failing to maintain a source of earthen material in such a manner that it is available at all times to extinguish and fires;
  • failing to control windblown waste and litter at the active working face;
  • failing to maintain all-weather access roads and other access roadways in a clean and safe condition;
  • failing to provide adequate landfill cover;
  • failing to install and maintain required landfill markers and a permanent benchmark;
  • failing to repair erosion of intermediate cover within five days of detection;
  • failing to prevent the ponding of water at the facility; and
  • failing to unload solid waste into a small, practical area as specified in the site operating permit (100 feet by 200 feet when the working face was 300 feet by 400 feet).

Among its technical requirements, the city must:

  • within 30 days of an agreed order provide suitable material for the roads and actively maintain them in safe and clean conditions;
  • conduct training and implement procedures to make sure the facility provides adequate daily and intermediate cover for the active and inactive disposal cells;
  • prevent water from ponding at the facility;
  • remove all ponded water and regrade the area where ponding occurred;
  • ensure at least 370 cubic yards of earthen material are available for fire suppression;
  • install and maintain all required landfill markers at the facility;
  • maintain the size of the working face in accordance with the site operating permit;
  • control windblown waste and litter;
  • remove windblown litter and return it to the active face;
  • ensure that erosion is repaired within five days of detection;
  • repair erosion observed near three cells, and;
  • within 45 days, submit written certification to demonstrate compliance with the order.

Asked how the violations were committed, Elefaño said: “I don’t know what you can say. I wasn’t here at the time. All I can say is we’re working to make sure the violations don’t happen again. TCEQ is working with us to make sure we don’t have these violations again. I personally don’t want it to happen again.”

About I.C. Murrell

I.C. Murrell was promoted to editor of The News, effective Oct. 14, 2019. He previously served as sports editor since August 2015 and has won or shared eight first-place awards from state newspaper associations and corporations. He was born in Memphis, Tennessee, grew up mostly in Pine Bluff, Arkansas, and graduated from the University of Arkansas at Monticello.

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