— By CHRISTIN COYNE
Parker County residents will have the opportunity to air their concerns regarding application of treated sewage in the area at a Texas Commission on Environmental Quality meeting scheduled for next month.
The meeting is set for 7 p.m. on Aug. 13 at the Springtown Senior Center.
Dozens of Springtown area residents made an outcry during early June about the stink coming from a site off Hutcheson Hill Road where Fort Worth contractor Renda Environmental was spreading biosolids across the top of hundreds of acres of pastureland as a fertilizer.
Many residents said they could not go outside because of the smell. Others said the smell made them feel ill. Some were concerned about health and environmental effects of the foul-smelling treated sewage product that attracted many flies to the area.
Though the TCEQ investigated 15 complaints made by Parker County residents, the application of the sludge continued for nearly three weeks in Parker County.
Renda says the sludge is safe, environmentally-friendly and shouldn’t attract flies.
There is no permit required or other restrictions, such as buffer zones, enforced when applying the sludge because of the higher standards for Class A biosolids, which must meet certain metal limits as well as meet certain pathogen and vector attraction reduction requirements according to the TCEQ. Instead, the company notifies the state of where they intend to apply the biosolids, and local officials can do little to prohibit it.
After receiving numerous complaints, as well, local elected officials became involved, including Commissioner George Conley, County Judge Mark Riley and State Rep. Phil King.
Both King and Riley contacted Fort Worth Mayor Betsy Price and the city told the contractor to cease application of the sludge at the Parker County site.
Riley also went to the commission’s June meeting in Austin in an attempt to get state regulations on biosolids application changed.
He requested the TCEQ accept a petition from an Ellis County landowner seeking to open a rule-making process on the issue and asked that the commission allow input statewide as the proposed regulation changes wouldn’t affect Parker County residents.
TCEQ did so and a meeting, and next month’s meeting in Springtown is one of four to be held across the state on the issue.
“I encourage our residents to participate and have a voice in the rule-making process,” Riley said. “We appreciate the TCEQ holding this meeting in Parker County to give our residents who are negatively affected by Renda Environmental’s actions an opportunity to express their thoughts. I have said it before and I will say it again: rural Texas is becoming a dumping ground and that is just not right.”
“We just want the issue solved so that our residents can get back to enjoying life as normal without the horrible odors and all the flies,” Conley said.
Though a report on the Parker County investigation was still pending and not expected to be released until August, TCEQ did release a notice of violation it sent Renda last week following the Parker County investigation.
A June 25 investigation revealed that the company had not obtained written authorization to construct a sludge storage area, the letter noted.
TCEQ recommended the company submit state code required documentation and a letter requesting authorization for the existing storage.
Renda was also issued three other notices of violation since the beginning of May for locations near Boyd, Rhome and Decatur, all in Wise County, according to documents provided to the Weatherford Democrat.
One of the violations in Wise County was for strong, offensive odors resembling decaying flesh and raw sewage traveling off-site and impacting neighbors. The investigator felt nauseous because of the odors, and workers at a nearby location were observed to be wearing surgical masks to avoid the odors.
Employees at the neighboring property vomited due to the odors and a meeting scheduled at the location had to be moved because of the smell, according to written statements provide by two citizens near the Decatur site.
Failure to prevent tracking of the material along the roadways adjacent to the application site near Boyd was also noted.