Deer Park company to receive contaminated wastewater from Ohio trail derailment

The wastewater from that train derailment incident in East Palestine, Ohio, is headed to the Houston area and will be disposed of by Texas Molecular, a hazardous waste company in Deer Park. That’s causing concerns for some.

Residents in Deer Park have a lot of the same questions and concerns after hearing hazardous waste from the Ohio train fire will be here. 

"Why, first of all, you know? What are they going to do with it? Will leaking be an issue? Will it end up in our drinking water?" asks Deer Park Resident Jennifer McDougald.  

"What are they going to do with it? How do you plan on disposing of it?" adds Deer Park resident Shay Smith.  

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According to Texas Molecular’s website they use the "deep well injection method" for disposal as shown in a diagram on the company’s page. 

"They’ve been permitted for the better part of 40 years to handle this kind of material. (The company was) one of the main sites that handled a lot of the stuff from the ITC event," explains Deer Park Mayor Jerry Mouton.  

In an email from Texas Molecular to the mayor, the company says the Ohio fire "was extinguished with foam and water" then the "firefighting water" was collected to "protect people and the environment." It goes on to say that liquid waste now contains "small amounts of Polyfluorinated Alkyl Substances (PFAS)" found in products "from packaging to non-stick cookware."

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"You may have seen or heard about a railcar fire in East Palestine, OH. The fire was extinguished by a small amount of fire foam and extremely large quantities of water. The large amounts of water created by extinguishing the fire contains small amounts of Per and Polyfluorinated Alkyl Substances (PFAS) – in the fire foam, as well as small amounts of chemicals like vinyl chloride. Efforts were made to collect much of the firefighting water, even though dilute, to keep it from harming people or the environment.

PFAS is found in everyday products from packaging, apparel, non-stick cookware, lubricants, fabric protection, firefighting foam and many other consumer and commercial applications. It has been in commerce for about 70 years. There are concerns about its potential health risks. There are thousands of PFAS compounds. Regulations on many PFAS compounds are in development.

Vinyl chloride is a building block for making polyvinyl chloride (PVC) which is a widely used plastic material. The vinyl chloride we receive is not a gas but a very low concentration that is soluble in water. Texas Molecular safely manages water with PFAS and vinyl chloride over many years. We accept wastewater with very low levels of PFAS contamination. As is the case with much of the water we accept over our almost 40-year history, these waters are sent to us to eliminate the risk of discharge of chemicals to water and groundwater and removed from the environment. Our work is done under permits and oversight by the EPA and TCEQ. Most wastewaters with PFAS alone are actually non-hazardous. The water from East Palestine is hazardous because it contains vinyl chloride.

In this case, the citizens in the East Palestine area and regulatory agencies want to remove the risk of even small amounts of these chemicals in the firefighting water getting into the environment where they might pose a risk to people or water. We are helping the impacted area by taking firewater in a way that removes the risk to water, groundwater, air emissions, and protects public health. This water is well within our permits, capabilities, and experience in managing waters like these safely and in compliance.

The citizens of Deer Park and the surrounding area may remember when there was a very large fire in our area a few years ago. A very large amount of firefighting water was used. After the fire, there was concern about the risk of all the firefighting water getting into the Ship Channel. Regulatory and citizen interests were happy to know that Texas Molecular was available to assist with reduction of any risk to water or public health in our area. Now we are helping another community with similar concerns. I do not know what you may hear about our role in accepting this water; my desire is to provide information to dispel any confusion about the water we accept."

"In so many words, it’s business as usual. This is a highly specialized arena, and again this facility has been handling these kinds of products for the better part of 40 years," says Mouton.   

TCEQ the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality tells FOX 26, "Texas Molecular is authorized to accept and manage a variety of waste streams, including vinyl chloride, as part of their RCRA hazardous waste permit and underground injection control permit."

"I’m very confident this is a great facility that knows what they’re doing," says the mayor. 

Because the contaminated water is being disposed of in Harris County, County Judge Lina Hidalgo says Harris County has reached out to the company and the Environmental Protection Agency "to ensure all regulations are being met."