Steel plant site

(Editor’s note: Today I lend my space to Jennifer Shaw, J.D., Georgetown University Law Center Class of 1978, for her opinion regarding the planned steel manufacturing plant in Sinton.)

I want to let residents of Aransas County and lovers of Copano Bay know that a steel manufacturing company operated out of Fort Wayne, IN plans to build a steel manufacturing plant in Sinton, which will dump 1,560,000 gallons of treated steel manufacturing plant wastewater per day into our county’s Copano Bay.

The steel manufacturer planning to dump its wastewater into Copano Bay is Steel Dynamics Southwest LLC, a company of unknown state of organization.  The LLC does not appear to own any other steel manufacturing plant, as is typical in liability avoidance “structures” used by corporate attorneys.  However the owner of the member interests in the LLC (members rarely have any liability under state laws) is Steel Dynamics, a company operating in Indiana.

The steel manufacturing plant in Sinton will be using an electric arc-furnace for its steel making process, according to press releases by the company. While that steel furnace will be less water and air polluting than the old style coal or gas fired open hearths where my family members worked in Pennsylvania and upstate New York, both my mother and father died of steel-making related cancers even though they never worked at a steel plant. They and thousands of other Americans died from steel manufacturing plant pollution. People and marine life that live near steel manufacturing plants are still dying, though luckily I moved away.

According to Steel Dynamics Southwest LLC’s application for a permit to dump their industrial wastewater into Copano Bay filed with the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ), the steel manufacturing wastewater plant’s industrial wastewater (whose chemical contents are undisclosed) will travel from the steel manufacturing plant “via onsite ditches to Chiltipin Creek; thence to the confluence of the Aransas Tidal River and Copano Bay/Port Bay/Mission Bay.”

That is generally the same location where the Saudi Arabian government/Exxon owned “biggest ethylene cracking plant in the world”, to be run by a Saudi company, currently being built near Gregory, will dump its “surface wastewater” from its 1,300 acre concrete covered industrial facility into Copano Bay.

For those of us living in Aransas County, including our County government, there’s no place in our county to actually read Steel Dynamics Southwest’s application to TCEQ, to see what industrial chemicals and known carcinogens will be dumped, in very large quantities, into Copano Bay each day even though two-thirds of Copano Bay’s shoreline is in our county.

Instead, to learn which chemical detail of what industrial chemicals will be dumped into our Copano Bay, the steel manufacturer’s application to commit this latest industrial atrocity against the natural marine biological state of affairs in Copano Bay, as a quite pristine body of water, is only available for public review at TCEQ’s office in Austin or in a document supposedly at the Sinton Library. TCEQ couldn’t be bothered to send a copy of the steel manufacturing company’s application to the Aransas County Library even though roughly two thirds of Copano Bay is in Aransas County.

By all accounts TCEQ is a “captive regulator” of Texas’ oil and chemical industries. In 2017, 2018 and 2019 TCEQ couldn’t be bothered to send a copy of the application by the Saudi/Exxon limited liability company to dump their chemically contaminated and dirty surface waste water into Copano Bay to the Aransas County Library or to our own County Judge either.  TCEQ also didn’t bother to send the application or any other information to the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service or any other Federal agency whose job it is to protect the Whooping Cranes in their flight path from the north to the land around Port Bay and then onto the Aransas National Wildlife Refuge, a grotesque violation of the National Environmental Policy Act. Those agencies found out about the Saudi/Exxon plant’s plan and permit to dump their surface wastewater, including errant small Styrofoam pellets to choke the birds, from a man who owns the land at the mouth of Port Bay as it enters Copano Bay, not from TCEQ.

While Steel Dynamics Southwest’s plan to build their steel manufacturing plant in Sinton was disclosed in their press release to the Corpus Christi Caller Times many months ago, neither they nor TCEQ bothered to disclose their plans to dump 1,560,000 gallons of “treated” industrial waste water per day into Copano Bay. As a result those of us who treasure Copano Bay for fishing have absolutely no idea what industrial chemicals will be “left” in the water by the steel manufacturing plant. We have no idea how those chemicals will react with the chemicals flushed into Copano Bay by the Saudi/Exxon cracking plant. TCEQ simply does not want to give us a clue.

And, of course, TCEQ will not implement any regular testing procedure by them to determine exactly what industrial chemicals are actually being dumped and flushed into our Copano Bay by the steel manufacturing plant and the cracking plant.  Our local marine life will be the only ones to tell us by becoming diseased or dying like the marine life in Galveston Bay have become.

For those who don’t know, the use of Galveston Bay as an industrial toilet has become so extreme that there are now public health warnings not to eat fish caught in that bay on a regular basis. At present Copano Bay is only “contaminated” with residential treated sewage wastewater from Rockport and Sinton, and a few small private residential sewage treatment systems.  That will change when the TCEQ approved Saudi/Exxon cracking plant starts flushing their untreated surface water from 1,300-concreted acres of their factory in Gregory into Copano Bay.

Our beloved Copano Bay is the next target to become an industrial manufacturer’s chemical disposal site with TCEQ’s approval, since Corpus Christi Bay and Nueces Bay are already industrially contaminated that the chemically-dangerous-factory-builders in San Patricio County are now designating Copano Bay as their next industrial wastewater disposal toilet.

The U.S. EPA will not protect Copano Bay and its marine life from these ever accelerating industrial wastewater discharges because EPA delegated all of their powers to TCEQ a long time ago, before Obama or Trump were President. During the Obama presidency the City of Corpus Christi was dumping untreated sewage into Corpus Christi Bay, making tourists who swam at North Beach sick, and the EPA told the DOJ to “go easy” on the City of Corpus Christi because they were “too poor” to build a proper sewage treatment plant to clean up the mess they make every day. The EPA and other Federal agencies will not protect Copano Bay or the people of Aransas County/Rockport/Fulton’s livelihood and property values by protecting the marine life in Copano Bay. In both the Federal agencies’ and TCEQ’s point of view we Aransas County residents are of absolutely no consequence at all.

TCEQ says they will ultimately hold a public meeting about the new steel manufacturing plant, but it will be in Sinton.  San Patricio County and Sinton will get all of the tax revenue generated by the building of the new steel manufacturing plant. Their people will get the jobs created. TCEQ will not be bothered holding any public meeting to hear Aransas County’s comments, just like TCEQ failed to hold any public meeting here when they decided they were going to let Saudi/Exxon flush their untreated surface water into Copano Bay.

Those of us in Aransas County will get nothing from TCEQ issuing a permit to the Steel Dynamics Southwest LLC except chemical filled industrial waste water, treated in half-baked way, dumped into Copano Bay at the rate of 1,560,000 gallons per day.  You sure wouldn’t want to drink it and you sure will not be happy about your dinner swimming in it.

(1) comment

Charla Ingalla

This concerns me greatly as a permanent resident living on Port Bay. We regularly fish in Port Bay, Copano and even Mission Bay itself. While I respect progress and the economic boost this plant may bring I am fearful that the plant may not regularly monitor and regulate any toxins in the water that will be dumped into the bay. What can we do to help insure that this will be done to protect our bay’s marine and plant life which in turn affects our own health? Charla Ingalls

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