Author Topic: The city of South Houston wants to remove mercury limits from its wastewater plant permit. Residents  (Read 102 times)

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Online Elderberry

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Houston Chronicle by  Perla Trevizo July 11, 2019

The city of South Houston wants to remove mercury limits from its wastewater plant permit. Residents are fighting to keep them.

Bob McGrew walks out to his backyard near Berry Bayou, points to the duck bathing in the water and starts listing all the wildlife he has spotted in the decade he’s lived there: the bobcat, a bald eagle, all kinds of birds and snakes. And then there’s Miss Duck, which has taken refuge in his garage, occasionally guiding her ducklings to the water after the eggs hatch.

McGrew moved to the southern Houston neighborhood from the Heights after his partner inherited the 1950s home from his parents. “The idea was to see how it went and if it didn’t go, sell and move on,” he said. They chose to stay.

Now, McGrew is among a group of neighbors, environmental advocates and lawyers fighting to continue requiring the city of South Houston to conduct weekly testing for mercury at its wastewater treatment plant. At a time when chemical plants are catching fire and federal officials are trying to clean up SuperFund sites in the Houston area, they argue that officials can’t be too cautious when dealing with a toxic chemical such as mercury and local waterways.

The city submitted its application to the state in November 2017 to remove the total mercury effluent limitation and reporting requirements from its permit, a request that was endorsed by the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality.

South Houston has been required for more than 12 years to carry out weekly tests for mercury after a lab result that city officials claim was flawed found elevated levels; the result was later dismissed because of quality control issues. The city now has enough data testing — 91 samples — at the state’s lower required detection level, officials say, to show that mercury is not present in the plant’s wastewater above the permitted level.

“To continue testing for a pollutant that has been proven to be below the state-required minimum analytical level would be a waste of financial resources and not provide any benefit to the environment,” city officials said.

The existing permit requires weekly testing of effluent total mercury at what is called a minimum analytical level of .000005 mg/l.

“The way I see it,” said Fred Gonzalez, superintendent at the wastewater treatment plant, “is that we’ve shown (for) 15-plus years that there is no mercury in the water. Why keep spending the money on something if we have proven it’s not there?” Besides, he added, testing is not going away completely, they just want to avoid doing it once a week.”

But attorneys and residents point to what they consider a dubious record of compliance. For instance, TCEQ in 2014 cited South Houston for mismanagement of its pretreatment program when it discovered that industrial wastewater permits issued by the city didn’t include provisions for monitoring mercury, nor did they set limits on the amount released by industrial users.

More: https://www.houstonchronicle.com/news/houston-texas/houston/article/The-city-of-South-Houston-wants-to-remove-mercury-14095063.php
« Last Edit: July 15, 2019, 08:56:52 AM by Elderberry »
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Online thackney

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Quote
...we’ve shown (for) 15-plus years that there is no mercury in the water. Why keep spending the money on something if we have proven it’s not there?” Besides, he added, testing is not going away completely, they just want to avoid doing it once a week.”...

It would seem a good idea to change to 3 month or so testing cycle.
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It would seem a good idea to change to 3 month or so testing cycle.

Yup.  There are sensible solutions other than cutting out the testing completely.  Improper testing of the water is how Flint, MI ended up with lead in the drinking water.  They made a change in the water source, then failed to test for metals through the whole system.  It looked like they only tested the water coming out of the treatment plant and called it good, without observing the effect of the water on miles of residential pipelines.
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