Residents of San Augustine County are fighting a permit application by a Montana-based oil company that is trying to build a waste disposal facility in the Chinquapin community.
The PA Prospect-Oil and Gas Waste Facility is expected to consist of 256.7 acres on both sides of state Highway 103 and will be used to store, handle, treat and dispose of non-hazardous oil and gas waste. The company first submitted its application to the Texas Railroad Commission in November 2019.
“This will be a 257-acre deal — I mean, I’m really concerned,” Ann Bridges, a resident of the Chinquapin community, said. “I’m concerned about the sale of that land. The materials coming are not good for the environment, not good for our health. There will be nothing good coming out of this.”
Bridges said the company has held two community meetings regarding the issue. There was also a packet of information sent to those living within a half mile of the facility around Thanksgiving, she said.
Citizens also expressed concerns about chemicals leaking into the water because the proposed facility would sit near the headwaters of Sam Rayburn Reservoir. Chinquapin Creek, which feeds into the reservoir, runs through the proposed site.
The company’s application states that per liter, it would accept less than:
■ Five milligrams of arsenic
■ 100 milligrams of barium
■ One milligram of cadmium
■ Five milligrams of chromium
■ Five milligrams of lead
■ 0.2 milligrams of mercury
■ One milligram of selenium
■ Five milligrams of silver
■ 0.5 milligrams of benzene
Health care professionals have classified several of these chemicals as known or probable human carcinogens, according to the Environmental Protection Agency. A person’s risk of developing cancer depends on how much, how long, how often, and when they are exposed to these chemicals.
Bridges wanted to know who would be monitoring the company, ensuring there was no hazardous waste brought into the facility and that none would escape the leachate ponds.
The company said in a statement that only non-hazardous oil and gas waste, which is subject to the jurisdiction of the railroad commission, will be accepted. They plan to reclaim and recycle oil and dispose of dry, solid waste into lined landfill cells. They expect to primarily receive drilling fluid and cuttings from drilling oil and gas wells in the ground.
“Safe and accessible state-licensed management and disposal of oil and gas waste must be available to oil and gas producers to allow for economic drilling of wells and production from existing wells,” Wes McGuffey, the attorney representing the company, said.
The company will have employees trained to self-monitor the situation, he said.
“After reviewing the application for this project, I share the concerns that have been raised by so many of my constituents,” Republican state Rep. Trent Ashby said. “Given the size, location and scope of this proposed project, I have serious concerns about the negative impact this facility would have not only on San Augustine County, but all of the counties that are adjacent to Lake Sam Rayburn. I’m also troubled by how this project could affect the groundwater that so many East Texans residents rely on as their primary source of freshwater.”
Republican state Sen. Robert Nichols was equally concerned about the proposed facility’s potentially harmful impact on the local groundwater and soil.
“I have heard from many San Augustine County residents who are concerned about how the proposed facility could negatively impact their lives, farms and homes,” he said. “They are concerned about potential water and soil contamination, as well as the potential for runoff from the facility into the creek running through the property, which feeds into neighboring streams and Lake Sam Rayburn.
“My office has reached out to discuss the project with PA Prospect Corporation and has attended a community meeting on this issue. However, many unanswered questions still remain about the impacts of this project to the local community and environment.”
Nichols wrote a letter to the commission, opposing the facility. He said he’d continue to work with the local communities as the application went through it’s process with the railroad commission.
“When a company submits an application, it must go through a rigorous process where it is vetted by both technical and legal staff at our agency to make sure that the facility meets safety standards in accordance with state law and the agency’s rules,” R.J. DeSilva, the communications director for the Railroad Commission of Texas said.
Because the application has been protested by more than five people or entities, the application will undergo a hearing with the commission’s hearings division, once it is administratively complete, he said.
McGuffey said the facility will operate with a sophisticated system of liners, berms and monitoring equipment to prevent off-site migration of waste materials. The liners will consist of 60-millimeter-thick polyethylene and a leak detection system to collect any moisture accumulated in the landfill, he said.
“The proposed facility application exceeds the permitting requirements of the commission, including multiple layers of engineered liners, existing natural and impervious clay up to 100 feet thick to protect groundwater; and extensive, redundant and engineered contact stormwater best management collection and retention control,” McGuffey said.
The company expects the project to cost $30 million. It plans to use local contractors to build the facility in addition to hiring 25 full-time permanent workers and 15 contract positions.
“Facility construction will require qualified local construction contractors,” McGuffey said. “Facility operation will require employees selected and trained from local residents.”