Transparency key when dealing with environment

Aug. 6, 2014 at 12:51 p.m.

On July 27, the Victoria Advocate published a story about Nordheim, a small town in the Crossroads, that could be the location for an oil-field waste site after a decision is made by the Texas Railroad Commission in September. A San Antonio company has proposed an oil-field waste disposal and treatment site for a 204-acre piece of land on Hohn Road in Nordheim. The application has been presented to the Texas Railroad Commission for the second time after being denied in 2013 because of the proposed facilities possibly causing or allowing pollution to surface or subsurface waters and also because the facilities were protested by local residents.

According to the application currently being reviewed, the trenches will not be capped and will allow for the oil-field waste to evaporate into the air and oxidize by the sun. The pits will be lined on the bottom, but the application allows the facility to leak 100 gallons per acre (possibly 20,400 gallons) per day from the trenches and 1,000 gallons (possibly 204,000 gallons) per acre per day from the collection pit. Pyote Reclamation Systems' engineering firm and Pasiano DeWitt, the land owned by Pete Dlugosch in Nordheim, have put forth the new application.

A majority of the reactions from Advocate readers on our social networking websites objecting to the proposed waste site have stated that, though Nordheim is small (population 307), the residents are proud of their home and do not want the smell, the busy traffic and the possible hazardous chemicals and waste draining into the land.

Though it is the smallest incorporated town in DeWitt County, Nordheim is home to competitive athletes, including 2014 grad Alyssa Leister, who went to the UIL Class 1A, Division II state track and field meet in May and earned two gold medals in the long jump and 200-meter dash.

However, three out of 10 readers on Facebook said that this is what happens when the "other shoe drops" on the issue of Eagle Ford Shale and rapid transition into a bustling oil-field area. If some residents are happy to benefit from the pros (oil-field paychecks and budding economic prosperity), then there will obviously be cons (oil-field waste and, therefore, waste sites).

A group of concerned DeWitt County residents are doing what they can to stop what they believe could become an extreme biological hazard. More than 100 residents formed Concerned About Pollution to protest the waste site, according to the story, and have hired a lawyer, petrochemical professional and a groundwater professional to help represent their side.

The company and landowner introduced residents to this proposal about a year ago with binders full of information. It was an attempt to be transparent about what their plans are for the disposal trenches, and it doesn't seem that they have sidestepped any questions about the issue.

Transparency is the best policy, especially when dealing with potential environmental hazards. Also, a healthy dialogue between concerned residents and community leaders with the companies involved and the Railroad Commission will aid the government body in deciding whether Nordheim is a safe place for an open waste disposal trench.

By signing petitions, going to community meetings and staying educated, residents will be able to put together a cohesive message for hearings Sept. 10 and Sept. 11 in Austin. There are two hearing examiners scheduled to collect evidence relevant to the disposal application in two days, and then they will make their recommendation to the Railroad Commission. Then, a meeting will be held by the commissioners to decide the fate of the plot of land on Hohn Road.

This editorial reflects the views of the Victoria Advocate's editorial board.



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