TCEQ Launches Investigation into Breach in New Braunfels Quarry’s Tailing Pond
The Texas Commission on Environmental Quality’s (TCEQ) San Antonio Region is investigating an apparent breach in a tailing pond dam at the Anderson Columbia Tejas Quarry (ACCI) in New Braunfels.
Briaan McGovern, Media Relations Work Lead with TCEQ, said an investigator from the regional office initiated an investigation at the facility today, June 3. They have 60 days to file an investigation report once the investigation is complete.
He said the agency was notified yesterday of release of water containing high total suspended solids.
A resident who lives on a farm near the quarry, 140 Coyote Run, reached out to the environmental activist group Preserve Our Hill Country Environment yesterday, June 2, to report a thick, whitish-brown liquid flowing from the Anderson Columbia property, running under the adjacent railroad track via flood drainage piping, and streaming across his property and into a downstream pond.
MyCanyonLake.com has asked Anderson Columbia Company Inc. (ACCI) and Comal County for their response to the situation.
Most of ACCI’s 800-acre quarry sits over the environmentally sensitive Edwards Aquifer Recharge Zone, the primary source of drinking water for over two million people. Pollutants that enter the karst aquifer travel quickly, contaminating water sources sometimes within a matter of hours.
Tailing ponds are used to store waste byproducts created by mining and quarrying operations, according to a statement issued by Preserve Our Hill Country Environment. The group said it suspects the liquid now flowing into the pond contains limestone particles, clay fines material, polymers and other unknown substances that can remain suspended indefinitely.
The liquid’s toxicity is unknown.
Quarry Opponents Warn Aquifer Is at Risk
David Drewa with Preserve Our Hill Country Environment said the property owner has asked to remain anonymous.
Drewa represents a coalition of environmental groups, including Stop 3009 Vulcan Quarry and Friends of Dry Comal Creek, that are fighting to keep another aggregate company, Vulcan Materials, from turning a 1,500-acre former ranch into a limestock rock quarry and crushing plant in central Comal County. Comal ISD also opposes the proposed quarry, which would be located just several miles north of the Anderson facility in an area estimated to have a population of 12,000.
In a statement, Milann Guckian, president of Preserve Our Hill Country Environment, said there are no regulations on dike engineering for tailing ponds.
“Release of tailing ponds materials past the facility’s property lines shows an egregious deficiency with the current regulatory environment that these aggregate production operators work under,” she said.
Jack Olivier, a Comal County geologist and member of the Texas Speleological Association, said quarries act as manmade funnels into underlying aquifers.
Annalisa Peace with the Greater Edwards Aquifer Alliance, describes leaks like these as “death by a thousand cuts.”
“We know that the Edwards Aquifer is higly vulnerable to pollution and the care and capacity has never been established so incidents like these are one more indication that we’re not doing a great job of protecting the recharge zone through regulation land issues,” she said.
About Anderson Columbia:
According to the New Braunfels Chamber of Commerce website, Anderson Columbia Co. Inc. (ACCI) is one of the largest construction firms in the Southeast as well as one of the largest heavy civil contractors in the United States, having completed road and bridge building projects up worth $500 million. ACCI also is largest road builder in Florida, and one of the largest and fastest growing road builders in Texas. ACCI operates throughout the southeast United States.
ACCI produces aggregate, crushed stone, and sand-and-gravel in Florida, Georgia, and Texas; runs cement operations in Florida; and oversees asphalt operations in Florida and Texas. Operations include highway and road construction; bridge, pier and whart construction; paving operations; industrial and commercial-site development; airport construction, landfill construction, forestry production and products, and material mining and processing.
The Texas Commission on Environmental Quality’s mission is to protect Texas’ public health and natural resources consistent with sustainable economic development, according to its website. It says its goal is clean air, clean water, and the safe management of waste.