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Victoria fined $36,000 for methane-gas exposure

By By Brian M. Cuaron - BCUARON@VICAD.COM
Sept. 22, 2011 at 4:22 a.m.


TCEQ ENFORCEMENT PROCESS

Complaint

Investigation

Violations found

Notice of violation, or notice of enforcement

Possible outcome: Agreed order, or settlement

Possible outcome: Matter goes to court

NOTE: If a party acts promptly in addressing the problem, the fine can be lower.

Source: Andrew Morrow, TCEQ media relations

Victoria will be fined $36,000 for methane-gas exposure measured above allowable levels at the city's landfill.

The Texas Commission on Environmental Quality has limits on methane-gas exposure to prevent the exposure from reaching explosive levels.

The exposures remained at the landfill and never reached explosive levels, said Jerry James, director of environmental services. At no time did the exposures pose a public health danger.

Victoria has 33 ports around the city-owned landfill, located near Farm-to-Market Road 1686 and state Highway 185. The ports monitor the amount of methane gas coming from the landfill.

The city reports to TCEQ the methane gas levels, James said. The violations occurred from 2007 to this year.

The city negotiated an agreed order, or settlement, with TCEQ that resulted in a fine of about $36,000, James said. The Victoria City Council is scheduled to vote on the agreement on Oct. 4.

The city has addressed the problem, James said. Gas exposure is below required levels at all but one of the ports.

Aging infrastructure and the ongoing drought were to blame for the higher exposure levels, James said.

Pipes at the landfill were affected by the soil's movement that occurs in drought periods, he said. And the soil had dried out and wasn't as compact as it once was.

The loss of methane gas into the atmosphere actually hurt the city's pocketbook beyond the fine.

Currently, Victoria burns the gas, turning it into carbon dioxide before it goes into the atmosphere, James said. But the city has planned to sell the gas.

"So we want all the gas to stay within the system," James explained.

Renovar Inc., has signed an agreement with Victoria to sell the methane gas. The company would pay royalties to the city, James said.

The city should soon announce an agreement with Inneos Nitriles, which has a plant near Bloomington, James said. Inneos will buy the gas from Renovar to power its boilers.

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