Steel Dynamics Southwest, LLC (SD) and The Aransas Project (TAP) announced Wednesday, March 24 they have reached an agreement regarding the discharge of treated wastewater into Chiltipin Creek near Sinton. As a result, TAP has agreed to withdraw its opposition to the anticipated issuance of a wastewater permit by the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ).

The new steel mill requires a Texas wastewater permit called a TPDES permit. It is nearing issuance by the TCEQ. TAP submitted comments on the draft permit in late 2020, focusing on the presence of metals in the planned discharge. SD heard TAP’s concerns and engaged in a discussion with TAP regarding ways they might work together to further protect water quality.

On Monday, March 22 the parties reached an agreement for SD to build a constructed wetlands treatment system. In addition to treating the steel mill’s process wastewater in accordance with the TPDES permit requirements, SD will add this constructed wetlands as a polishing step that takes advantage of nature’s own processes to further clean the water.

Scientific literature has shown that constructed wetlands can remove 50% or more of metals in wastewater, depending upon the metal being evaluated. Effluent testing will be conducted to determine the efficiency of the system. SD and TAP will work jointly on the design of the constructed wetlands, with TAP being assisted by Dr. Jack Matson and his colleagues.

TAP and SD believe when parties with seemingly different goals put aside their differences, and instead focus on the issue at hand, there is opportunity for real progress. TAP believes this water quality protection project will demonstrate that a productive economy and a protected natural environment can coexist, and it is hopeful it may serve as a model for sustainable manufacturing in South Texas and beyond.

TAP President Jim Blackburn said, “We are very optimistic about this settlement agreement to construct and operate a wetland polishing system. There is a lot of work to be done going forward. We are rolling up our sleeves and beginning the design process.”

SD’s Senior Vice President Glenn Pushis said, “We’re an American company focused on our industry’s sustainable future and are always looking for innovative projects that complement that goal.  We hope that partnering with TAP on this constructed wetlands project demonstrates our commitment to protecting our shared environment.”

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