A regulatory compliance history of the West Fertilizer Plant in Texas

Please scroll down for more original TCEQ documents.

The West Chemical and Fertilizer Company started in 1962 on the outskirts of Abbot Hill, Texas – just under five miles northeast of its current location in the town of West. In 1967, Monsanto Co. installed a 12,000-gallon storage tank for the purpose of storing anhydrous ammonia (NH3). In 1977, the company was issued a permit to store and transport anhydrous ammonia by the Texas Air Control Board (TACB), an agency that has since been absorbed into the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ).

In 1984, West Chemical and Fertilizer moved operations to its current location in West. It wasn’t until eight years later, in 1992, that the company informed the TCEQ that the facility had moved. The company had been operating out of compliance with the permit that had been issued exclusively for the Abbot Hill site during this eight-year period. There was a complaint filed with the TACB in 1987 for odors. However this was filed under the entity (MB0145S) and not the permit, which is why the location change was not noted at the time.

Six years after the facility was put back in compliance, the TCEQ Waco regional office received numerous complaints of odors from the facility. The site was investigated on June 20, 1992 with no offensive odors detected. In 1997, another complaint was filed with the TCEQ for ammonia odors. The complainant “indicated that she had smelled the odors at night on approximately five separate occasions in the last month.” The site was investigated at around 9:00 a.m. with no odors detected by the investigator. Again in 1999, the site received a complaint of offensive odors. Records do not indicate that the site was ever investigated during evening or nighttime hours, when the majority of complainants claim to have experienced odors.

At some point after 1999, the air permit for NH3 storage was allowed to expire. It was not until 2006 following an investigation by the TCEQ into another odor complaint that the facility was brought into modern compliance. At that time, the TCEQ discovered the business had expanded and changed owners to Adair Grain, Inc. The company had investigation reports filed in 2006 pertaining to odor complaints and failure to obtain a permit. At that time, the facility was brought back into compliance and acquired two new air permits (79803 and 80404) for NH3. There have been no compliance irregularities filed for the site since 2006.

Banks Environmental Data was able to obtain a full copy of the TCEQ records currently available for this site at the TCEQ. Below are links to download these files for anyone who would like to review in greater detail. Most images prior to 2006 were on microfilm. These are the best copies we were able to obtain.

It seems to me that this incident will and should start a national debate on the safety of storing high volumes of chemicals, like NH3, in populated areas. My heart goes out to the people of West, Texas and their families. Please join us in making a donation to the Red Cross on behalf of West. You can text Red Cross to 90999 to make a one-time $10.00 donation or help online at redcross.org.

chain of title expert Justin Ripple
Document Research Services


Not that I’m bias but Dale Jr. needs a win

Dale Earnhardt Jr., Kasey Kahne


RACE: Toyota Owners 400
VIEWING: Drivers
  • Chase for the Sprint Cup.
  • Wild Card Potentials.
Select Visual Mode: List View Visual View
Race standing of the season
Rank Driver + / – Points Behind Wins Starts Top 5 Top 10
Hendrick Motorsports
Jimmie Johnson
0 343 0 2 9 4 6
Roush Fenway Racing
Carl Edwards
4 Position Up 300 43 1 9 4 5
Hendrick Motorsports
Kasey Kahne
-1 Position Down 297 46 1 9 4 5
Hendrick Motorsports
Dale Earnhardt Jr
1 Position Up 297 46 0 9 3 6
Michael Waltrip Racing
Clint Bowyer
3 Position Up 290 53 0 9 4 5
Penske Racing
Brad Keselowski
-3 Position Down 284 59 0 9 4 7
Joe Gibbs Racing
Kyle Busch
0 278 65 2 9 5 5
Roush Fenway Racing
Greg Biffle
-4 Position Down 272 71 0 9 1 4
Richard Childress Racing
Kevin Harvick
2 Position Up 271 72 1 9 1 2
Richard Childress Racing
Paul Menard
-1 Position Down 271 72 0 9 0 4
Richard Petty Motorsports
Aric Almirola
1 Position Up 258 85 0 9 0 3
Earnhardt Ganassi Racing
Jamie McMurray
-2 Position Down 245 98 0 9 0 3
Joe Gibbs Racing
Matt Kenseth
1 Position Up 241 102 2 9 2 5
Hendrick Motorsports
Jeff Gordon
1 Position Up 235 108 0 9 1 2
Michael Waltrip Racing
Martin Truex Jr
-2 Position Down 231 112 0 9 2 3
Stewart-Haas Racing
Ryan Newman
1 Position Up 229 114 0 9 1 4
Penske Racing
Joey Logano
3 Position Up 228 115 0 9 3 3
Roush Fenway Racing
Ricky Stenhouse Jr
0 224 119 0 9 0 0
Richard Childress Racing
Jeff Burton
4 Position Up 218 125 0 9 1 2
Furniture Row Racing
Kurt Busch
2 Position Up 216 127 0 9 2 3
Michael Waltrip Racing
Mark Martin
-5 Position Down 207 136 0 8 1 3
Stewart-Haas Racing
Tony Stewart
-1 Position Down 207 136 0 9 0 1
Richard Petty Motorsports
Marcos Ambrose
-4 Position Down 195 148 0 9 0 1
Earnhardt Ganassi Racing
Juan Pablo Montoya
3 Position Up 183 160 0 9 1 1
Germain Racing
Casey Mears
-1 Position Down 183 160 0 9 0 0
Stewart-Haas Racing
Danica Patrick
-1 Position Down 169 174 0 9 0 1
JTG Daugherty Racing
Bobby Labonte
1 Position Up 152 191 0 9 0 0
Joe Gibbs Racing
Denny Hamlin
145 198 0 5 1 1
Tommy Baldwin Racing
Dave Blaney
0 145 198 0 9 0 0
Front Row Motorsports
David Ragan
1 Position Up 145 198 0 9 0 0
31 1 Position Up 138 205 0 9 0 0
Tommy Baldwin Racing
J.J. Yeley
-2 Position Down 135 208 0 9 0 1
Front Row Motorsports
David Gilliland
0 131 212 0 9 0 0
Phoenix Racing
AJ Allmendinger
2 Position Up 122 221 0 4 0 0
Swan Racing
David Stremme
-1 Position Down 114 229 0 8 0 0
BK Racing
Travis Kvapil
-1 Position Down 100 243 0 9 0 0
Circle Sport
Landon Cassill
0 94 249 0 8 0 0
Phil Parsons Racing
Michael McDowell
0 47 296 0 8 0 1
FAS Lane Racing
Terry Labonte
37 306 0 2 0 0
Leavine Family Racing
Scott Speed
35 308 0 5 0 0
FAS Lane Racing
Timmy Hill
1 Position Up 34 309 0 4 0 0
FAS Lane Racing
Ken Schrader
29 314 0 3 0 0
Michael Waltrip Racing
Michael Waltrip
23 320 0 1 0 0
XXXtreme Motorsport
Scott Riggs
6 337 0 3 0 0
Brian Keselowski Racing
Brian Keselowski
9 Position Up 4 339 0 1 0 0
Phoenix Racing
Regan Smith
0 343 0 3 0 1
Joe Gibbs Racing
Brian Vickers
-1 Position Down 0 343 0 5 0 2
Wood Brothers Racing
Trevor Bayne
0 343 0 3 0 0
Richard Childress Racing
Austin Dillon
0 343 0 3 0 0
Front Row Motorsports
Josh Wise
-1 Position Down 0 343 0 9 0 0
NEMCO Motorsports
Joe Nemechek
-1 Position Down 0 343 0 8 0 0
Penske Racing
Sam Hornish Jr
0 343 0 1 0 0
Joe Gibbs Racing
Elliott Sadler
0 343 0 1 0 0
Humphrey Smith Racing
Mike Bliss

Economic Crisis due to Great Lakes Water Levels

New water lows for Great Lakes could drain local economies

By Mike Pearson, CNN
updated 11:46 AM EST, Thu January 17, 2013
Water levels in Lake Michigan, pictured, and Lake Huron fell to record low levels for December.
Water levels in Lake Michigan, pictured, and Lake Huron fell to record low levels for December.

  • Water levels in Lake Michigan and Lake Huron are expected to set a record low
  • Dry conditions are accelerating a long-term trend, forecaster says
  • Commercial shipping, recreational boaters are facing issues
  • The tourist trade also could suffer, experts say

(CNN) — Chris Berkey makes his living plying the often treacherous waters of the Great Lakes, delivering staples like cement to industries nestled in the myriad harbors that dot a coastline that’s equal to nearly half of the circumference of the globe.

It’s not glamorous work, but it is critical to the U.S. economy. And it’s getting harder.

Water levels in Lake Michigan and Lake Huron fell to record low levels for December, and are expected to break the all-time low sometime in the next few months.

Cargo ships like Berkey’s are being forced to lighten their loads, some harbors have already been forced to close and the tourist trade is bracing for an impact as well.

“In years past, there was always a buffer,” he said. “That buffer’s gone.”

Borrowing water to fill the Mississippi?

Low water levels could mean high prices

It’s not a new problem. Lake levels have been below average for at least 13 years, said Keith Kompoltowicz, chief of watershed hydrology for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers in Detroit.

But it is an increasingly serious one:

— The coal trade on the Great Lakes declined 8.2% in 2012 from the previous year, and down a quarter off the 5-year-averge — in large part due to falling water levels and a $200 million backlog in necessary dredging throughout the lakes, according to the Lake Carriers’ Association.
— Commercial fishing boats are finding it increasingly difficult to navigate some harbors, risking a downturn in a vital part of the Great Lakes economy, said Mark Breederland, an educator with Michigan SeaGrant, which works with coastal communities on water-level issues, among other things.
— Charter boat operations and other businesses in coastal communities that depend on tourism fear the impact lower water levels will have from spring to fall, when tens of thousands of people flow into the state to boat, fish, eat out and shop.

Fishing lure

In Frankfort, Michigan, a popular salmon run on the Betsie River draws tourists drawn by the lure of fishing a rare naturally replenished population of the prized fish, said city manager Josh Mills.

“We see people from Texas, from Georgia, from Ohio, Illinois, other areas of Michigan,” he said.

But low lake levels last year dried up the run, leaving salmon flopping in the mud, and forcing the state Department of Natural Resources to close the run to protect the population.

It appears a good number of the fish made it to their spawning grounds, but if water levels don’t recover in the spring, the narrow channel through which the fish pass could dry up once again — prompting tourists to find someplace else to go, Breederland said.

Also of concern: potential access problems at some of the private marinas dotting Betsie Bay, Mills said.

Read more: Sailing the world’s most beautiful lakes

Despite efforts to diversify the city’s economy in recent years, such problems would be a huge blow to the tiny community of 1,300, the city manager said.

“I’m confident the community will step up,” he said. “But if there’s no water, we’re going to miss out on a lot of activity.”

Precipitation and evaporation

The problem is a long-term cycle of too little water from melting snow and rain to counter the effects of evaporation on the lakes, Kompoltowicz.

Last winter, too little snow fell on the Great Lakes region to fully replenish the lakes. While Lake Michigan and Lake Huron typically rise a foot after the spring melt, the lakes only rose four inches last spring, Kompoltowicz said.

Add that tiny rise to a very hot, very dry summer that sucked water out of the lake like a straw, and you have a recipe for the decline in lake levels under way today, eh said.

There’s too little data to say the problem is a product of global warming, he said. It’s also a cycle that’s been seen before.

Lake levels were nearly this low in December 1964, and it’s the March 1964 record that’s likely to fall in the next few months.

There is hope, he said. Records dating back to 1918 would seem to indicate a cyclical pattern that could well result in record lake levels in the next few years, he said. Such swings occurred in the 1970s and 1980s after similar low points.

Dredging backlog

But even if the water returns, what would appear to be a more intractable problem looms: Congress.

Groups with interests in the economy of the Great Lakes say Congress has failed to appropriate enough money to keep up with a growing backlog of dredging jobs needed to keep harbors clear for larger boats.

As a result, 17 million tons of sediment — runoff from farms, mostly — built up in harbors and other critical areas, said Glen Nekvasil, vice president of the Lake Carriers’ Association, a trade association for commercial cargo interests.

Michigan Sen. Carl Levin has been pushing Congress to appropriate an unspent balance of nearly $7 billion in a trust fund designed to pay for such work, but to little avail so far — much to the chagrin of interests along the lakeshore.

The fund takes in $1.6 billion a year, but only spends $800 million a year nationside, Nevkasil said.

“The money is there,” he said. “They just need to use it.”

Wasting Away

The concern about lake levels has even spread to Chicago’s wastewater treatment program, where a spate of recent media coverage worried that declining lake levels could cause the heavily managed Chicago River to reverse its course and dump sewage into Lake Michigan.

Chicago’s Metropolitan Water Reclamation District issued a press released Friday batting down the theory, saying it’s just not possible for such a thing to happen.

But it could result in restrictions on river traffic as the agency works with the Corps to ensure problems with low oxygen levels in the river, the agency said in its relase.

“We are not in a crisis at this time nor do we anticipate being in a crisis this year even if the drought should continue,” the agency said.

Light loads

While the big deepwater ships that carry huge quantities of the nation’s iron ore, coal and other goods are able to steam the deep waters of the Great Lakes as they always have, they must carry ever lighter loads to avoid grounding on the increasingly shallow harbors where they unload.

For instance, Nekvasil visited a ship Friday in Indiana Harbor, Indiana that’s designed to carry 76,000 tons of iron ore. Because of low water levels and the harbors filing with silt, it can only carry 58,000 tons, he said.

As of now, light-loading is merely a matter of efficency, Nevkasil said. But that’s in large part because the fragile economic recovery has not yet put a full burner under the nation’s industry.

“We can meet demand now because the economy is not fully recovered,” he said. “If demand for all of the cargo we move was at peak levels, we could not.”

While the situation has not yet resulted in job losses among ship crews, Burkey said some of the businesses to which he’s long delivered supplies are shutting down because the harbors are just too unreliable. Others are switching to truck and rail to bring supplies.

Some harbors also are planning to shut down, said Breederland, while others may not be able to accommodate some larger recreational and charter boats that bring tourists to the region when the weather warms.

That worries Steve Christian, the owner of Dinghy’s restaurant in Frankfort. About 70 percent of his sales come during the summer fishing season.

“If they can’t get into the harbor and go fish, they’re not going to be coming into my restaurant and ordering food and beverages,” he said.

Still he said, he’s pretty sure things will return to normal in a few years.

“This has happened before in the living man’s memory,” he said. “It’s cyclical, and we’ll recover.”


Ferry Service delayed due to low water levels from Tobermory, Ontario to Manitoulin Island, Ontario

News Local

Chi-Cheemaun season delayed

Monday, April 29, 2013 5:26:20 EDT PM


The opening of the Chi-Cheemaun’s annual sailing season has been delayed for at least a week.

Originally scheduled to begin on May 3, the start of the season has been pushed back to at least May 10 because low water levels have made it unsafe for the ferry to dock at Tobermory and at South Baymouth on Manitoulin Island.

Owen Sound Transportation Company president and CEO Susan Schrempf said late Monday afternoon that it was a difficult decision to make.

“It was also an obvious decision once we got today’s water levels,” Schrempf said. “As of now we need them to go up two-tenths of a metre.”

The OSTC, which is the owner/operator of the ferry, made the announcement in a statement on its website on Monday. The statement said that while water levels have slowly increased over the last week, they are still below the minimum level required for the ferry to operate safely from the existing docking fenders at the two locations.

Schrempf said the water levels have been holding at about 20 centimetres below where they need to be for about the past three days.

Fenders, often called bumpers, at the docking terminal are too high to accommodate the vessel due to the drop in water levels. Fenders protect the vessel and passengers during docking.

Schrempf said the agency doesn’t know what to expect because it is facing a situation it has never been in before.

“Last year at this time water levels were at the right height, obviously,” said Schrempf. “We are 20 centimetres down from there and how long it is going to take to get it up from there, I don’t know.”

The annual Spring Cruise on Thursday will go ahead as scheduled as water levels have risen sufficiently to permit safe docking of the vessel in its light condition with passengers only, Schrempf said.

The passengers will board in Owen Sound before making the trip to Tobermory. They will then be bused back to Owen Sound, as originally planned. The Chi-Cheemaun will then return to Owen Sound as well.

Schrempf couldn’t comment on the financial implications of the delay, but did say that any delay will affect traffic well into the season.

“During the spring, that is when traffic builds, so it builds right up into the summer,” said Schrempf. “if you start two weeks later, three weeks later, four weeks later, you still have to go through that build process. Your traffic isn’t going to be instantaneously at peak, so I think the financial implications are going to carry through the season. They aren’t just going to be limited to however many weeks we are delayed.”

Schrempf said the delay could also mean employees will have to be layed off.

“If we have no work for them we will be forced into the position of having to lay them off and that is a place we would not like to be,” said Schrempf.

Schrempf still doesn’t know if there is a possibility the fenders will be modified this season. The provincial and federal governments are in disagreement over who should pay the $272,000 cost to modify the two docking terminals.

While the OSTC, which is an agency of the Ontario Ministry of Northern Development and Mines, owns and operates the Chi-Cheemaun and is responsible for operating the docking terminals, the terminals themselves are owned and maintained by Transport Canada.

Bruce-Grey-Owen Sound MP Larry Miller said the federal ministry has received a legal opinion that has determined the fender work is not considered maintenance under its agreement with the OSTC, but rather a modification. A legal letter from the province to Transport Canada says the modifications are Transport Canada’s responsibility, an opinion shared by Northern Development Minister Michael Gravelle.

Miller and Bruce-Grey-Owen Sound MPP Bill Walker have both said they will press for the work to get finished until there is a resolution.

Weekly updates on the status of the sailing schedule for the Chi-Cheemaun will be provided on Mondays at http://www.ontarioferries.com.

Where is the water really going?

2 Great Lakes Hit Record Low Water Levels

By: John Flesher | Associated Press
Published: February 6, 2013

Flickr/Creative Commons/Chris Smith

The sun rises over Chicago on the shores of Lake Michigan, which – along with Lake Huron – has hit its lowest water level ever recorded.

TRAVERSE CITY, Mich. — Two of the Great Lakes have hit their lowest water levels ever recorded, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers said Tuesday, capping more than a decade of below-normal rain and snowfall and higher temperatures that boost evaporation.

Measurements taken last month show Lake Huron and Lake Michigan have reached their lowest ebb since record keeping began in 1918, and the lakes could set additional records over the next few months, the corps said. The lakes were 29 inches below their long-term average and had declined 17 inches since January 2012.

The other Great Lakes — Superior, Erie and Ontario — were also well below average.

“We’re in an extreme situation,” said Keith Kompoltowicz, watershed hydrology chief for the corps district office in Detroit.

The low water has caused heavy economic losses by forcing cargo ships to carry lighter loads, leaving boat docks high and dry, and damaging fish-spawning areas. And vegetation has sprung up in newly exposed shoreline bottomlands, a turnoff for hotel customers who prefer sandy beaches.

The corps’ report came as shippers pleaded with Congress for more money to dredge ever-shallower harbors and channels. Shippers are taxed to support a harbor maintenance fund, but only about half of the revenue is spent on dredging. The remainder is diverted to the treasury for other purposes. Legislation to change that policy is pending before Congress.

“Plunging water levels are beyond anyone’s control, but the dredging crisis is man-made,” said James Weakley, president of the Cleveland-based Lake Carriers’ Association.

Kompoltowicz said the Army corps might reconsider a long-debated proposal to place structures in a river to reduce the flow of water away from Lakes Huron and Lake Michigan, which are connected.

Scientists say lake levels are cyclical and controlled mostly by nature. They began a steep decline in the late 1990s and have usually lagged well below their historical averages since then.

But studies have shown that Huron and Michigan fell by 10 to 16 inches because of dredging over the years to deepen the navigational channel in the St. Clair River, most recently in the 1960s. Dredging of the river, which is on the south end of Lake Huron, accelerated the flow of water southward from the two lakes toward Lake Erie and Lake Ontario, and eventually into the Atlantic Ocean.

Groups representing shoreline property owners, primarily in Lake Huron’s Georgian Bay, have demanded action to slow the Lake Huron and Michigan outflow to make up for losses that resulted from dredging, which they contend are even greater than officials have acknowledged.

Although the Army corps produced a list of water-slowing options in 1972, including miniature dams and sills that resemble speed bumps along the river bottom, nothing was done because the lakes were in a period of above-average levels that lasted nearly three decades, Kompoltowicz said.

The corps has congressional authorization to take action but would need money for an updated study as a first step, he said. The Detroit office is considering a funding request, but it would have to compete with other projects nationwide and couldn’t get into the budget before 2015.

“It’s no guarantee that we’re going to get it, especially in this budget climate,” Kompoltowicz said. “But there are serious impacts to navigation and shoreline property owners from this extreme event. It’s time to revisit this.”

Scientists and engineers convened by the International Joint Commission, a U.S.-Canadian agency that deals with shared waterways, issued reports in 2009 and last year that did not endorse trying to regulate the Great Lakes by placing structures at choke points such as the St. Clair River. The commission has conducted public hearings and will issue a statement in about a month, spokesman John Nevin said.

Roger Gauthier, a retired staff hydrologist with the Army corps, said a series of “speed bumps” could be put in the river at a reasonable cost within a few years. Without such measures, he warned, “it would take years of consistent rain” to return Lake Michigan and Lake Huron to normal.