Here's why permit could be suspended for Blackhorn waste disposal facility in Orange Grove

Robin Bradshaw
Alice Echo News Journal
Blackhorn Environmental LLC. in Jim Wells County.

Operations at a waste disposal facility in Orange Grove have been put on notice after its permit was questioned by an audit performed by the Texas Railroad Commission that claims it accepted unauthorized waste.

A recent audit revealed that Blackhorn Environmental Services accepted waste it was not authorized to take including non-RCRA exempt wastes and wastes from commercial operators without the required testing. 

RCRA is the acronym for the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act, a federal law that regulates the management of hazardous waste, non-hazardous wastes, medical wastes, and underground storage tanks.

The facility's permit to operate was suspended until further notice.

 Blackhorn Environmental specializes in the handling and disposal of non-hazardous oil and gas waste. The company is regulated through the Texas Railroad Commission and serves the big players in the industry.

Beginning in January of 2020, Blackhorn began receiving waste from Valicor Environmental Services LLC Waste Hauler Yard, located on County Road 46 in Robstown. The report states that the wastes generated by Valicor are not wastes under the jurisdiction of the permit issued by the Railroad Commission (RRC). To date, Blackhorn has accepted over 644 loads of waste from Valicor, including additional waste from additional unpermitted sites. 

Blackhorn Environmental Services LLC. Violation report from the the Texas Railroad Commission.

"Blackhorn will seek an immediate hearing to review and defend these allegations," stated Blackhorn's attorney Patricia Canales Bell. "Blackhorn disputes the alleged violations and will provide responsive documentation to demonstrate that its facility and operations are fully compliant with regulatory standards and will continue to operate in support of the South Texas Oil and Gas Industry."

"Furthermore, the Commission Statewide Rule 8(d)(6)(E) authorizes the facility to continue all operations without interruption while the alleged violations are subject to the Commission’s hearing process noted above. Rule 8 only allows for a permit modification, suspension, or termination for good cause and after notice and opportunity for a hearing," Bell added. 

Blackhorn Environmental Services has been under scrutiny for the past year involving multiple complaints by residential neighbors that live close to the facility. Multiple neighbors close to the site have spoken out about foul orders, poor air quality resulting in health issues and safety concerns involving the large truck traffic in regards to weight and speed.

"This is a serious problem," said neighbor Jennifer Green. "How can every neighbor close to the waste plant have the exact same symptoms of illness? We wake up to sour-smelling odors, we get sick, our kids get sick and we all have the same symptoms." 

The previous complaints have involved neighbors complaining to the Texas Commission of Environmental Quality (TCEQ), violations issued to the waste site. Neighbors spoke out at Jim Wells County Commissioners Court which resulted in resolutions signed by the court and Senator Juan "Chuy" Hinojosa asking the Railroad Commission to consider not renewing the permit in the area. 

After the initial protests and petitions, a motion to approve the renewal permit to continue operations for the oil and gas disposal facility Blackhorn Environmental Waste Services LLC. in Orange Grove was passed during  a Texas Railroad Commissioners (RRC) hearing on April 13. The permit approval was for the next five years. 

The RRC determined in the audit that Blackhorn has violated the terms of the facility permits. A written request for a hearing must be received by Staff within 15 days from the date of this letter. If the operator fails to timely request a hearing, the permit will be considered suspended on the 16th day after the date on June, 4. 

"This could not be better news for our family," said neighbor Tara Jones. "I'm just tired this has been a long ongoing fight and we are all worn out. All we want is to have the facility follow and operate the guidelines of the permit issued by the state."

More Coverage: 

More:RRC approves permit renewal for disposal waste facility in Orange Grove

More:TCEQ investigates Blackhorn Environmental Services in Orange Grove

More:RRC permit renewal hearing for Blackhorn waste disposal facility in Orange Grove postponed

More:Jim Wells County commissioners oppose permit renewal for waste disposal facility

More:Orange Grove neighbors address safety concerns involving Blackhorn Environmental Services LLC.