What’s that smell?

Posted Tuesday, Jun. 25, 2013  comments  Print Reprints

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Parker County has a smelly problem.

It’s one that would make most people cringe, knowing that treated human waste, known as “biosolids,” was being used as fertilizer in the northern portion of the county.

But a solution is in the works following a recent Commissioner’s Court meeting. The meeting took place outside, near the dumping area, where Judge Mark Riley told more than 30 concerned residents “enough was enough.”

“The first thing - like you - we were told this was a legal process,” Riley said. “There is a proper way to do this and the company was not doing it properly; and even if it was legal, I think it was irresponsible on the part of the company to do what they have been doing.”

The company in question is Renda Environmental Inc., and the area is approximately 200 acres of farmland located off J. Woody Road at Hutichson Hill Road near Springtown that’s the issue.

The problem of a foul stench and flies have residents so concerned about environmental and health issues that Rep. Phil King, R-Weatherford, issued a statement recently.

"Over the past few weeks, my office has received a number of phone calls and e-mails concerned about the dumping of human waste at locations in both Parker and Wise counties,” King said. “We believe that the company responsible for this has been hired by the City of Fort Worth and are awaiting confirmation of this fact.

"As soon as my office was notified of this issue, I contacted the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ), and asked them to look into the matter. I am assured that the TCEQ has begun an enforcement action against the company. However, it also appears that the current regulations are insufficient to protect neighboring property owners.”

He said beginning June 18, the TCEQ stared a formal “rule-making” process to change the rules on dumping of waste such as this, to ensure the health and safety of Texans. This process, he said, will be an open one in which concerned parties have an opportunity to testify in front of the agency and give their input.

"My office will continue to monitor this situation and stay engaged in the rule making process as it moves forward," King concluded.

Riley said King also spoke to Fort Worth Mayor Betsy Price.

“As we all know, this sludge is coming from the City of Fort Worth and it’s being dumped on neighboring property,” Riley said. “I spoke with Mayor Price as well and they are not happy.”

Riley said a short time later, the city of Fort Worth told the company to stop dumping.

Headed to Austin

On June 18, Riley took a trip to Austin to speak before the TCEQ Commission regarding the use of human waste as fertilizer and it seems to have paid dividends.

In a release, Riley said numerous Parker County residents in the Springtown area have had their quality of life negatively affected by the use of the “biosolids” as a fertilizer. The placement of the product, which comes from Fort Worth sewage treatment plants, has created an obnoxious odor and fly problem that has infiltrated the homes of residents downwind of the application sites.

Riley spoke on an agenda item regarding a petition by an Ellis County resident who is dealing with the same situation that affected Parker County residents in the Springtown area.

He told the commission of the situation in Parker County and asked the TCEQ to include Parker County as a stakeholder in the situation.

The TCEQ Commission voted to open their rule making process statewide, including Parker and Wise counties.

“It turns out the Ellis County petition is based on actions by Renda Environmental Inc., the same company that is using this human waste fertilizer in Wise and Parker counties,” Riley said.

While TCEQ is looking into the issue, the City of Fort Worth has informed Riley that it has told Renda Environmental to halt applications in Parker County until the problem is resolved.

“I believe it is a quality control issue with the product, but it is also a common sense issue,” he said. “The company knew there was a problem with the product. TCEQ knew there was a problem with the product when they ordered the company to stop using it in Wise County last month.”

Riley said he has requested additional information from TCEQ regarding Renda Environmental and the use of the biosolids.

The TCEQ’s view

When asked if the citizens in the area had a legitimate health concern as well as an issue with property values, Terry Clawson, Manager for Media Relations for the TCEQ, broke it down in a more clinical fashion.

“Title 40, Part 503 of the Code of Federal Regulations establishes the standards for processing and handling domestic sewage sludge,” Clawson said. “These regulations include pathogen and vector attraction reduction requirements for the protection of public health. State regulations of Texas Administrative Code Chapter 312 establishes requirements consistent with the federal regulations and includes additional best management practices for the state of Texas.”

He said their records indicate that Renda land applied Class A sewage sludge on 73,000 acres in Texas during 2012.

Renda Environmental, Inc.

Authorities at Renda Environmental said the company has been “land applying” the materials in question for more than 20 years.

“We’ve been to Parker County many times,” said Biosolid Manager Ben Davis. “There wasn’t anything different about the material, it was just more odorous than normal.”

Davis said the product is a “great product” and that he has used it himself .

“I grew up on a farm and we applied this on my family’s land,” he said. “ I wouldn’t put this out if I thought there was anything hazardous about it.”

He said that nothing had changed with how it had been done in the past on previous applications.

“We have protocols - a standard operating procedure we follow for all of our processes,” Davis said. “The city sends us the material in liquid form, we take the water out of it, and on top of the sterilization process they import another product for further sterilization.”

He said for the time being the company has no plans to return to Parker County.

Lance Winter, 817-594-9902, Ext. 102 Twitter: @Lancwinter

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