ORANGE GROVE, Texas — Vindication. That's what some Orange Grove residents are calling Friday's decision by the Texas Railroad Commission to shut down a waste disposal facility indefinitely. It’s a story that 6 Investigates first brought you in December.
Jennifer Green and her family live on the adjoining property, and since Blackhorn Environmental Services opened for business in early 2019, the Greens and dozens of nearby residents have been working day and night to shut it down.
“We can only hope that further audits provide more evidence of what we’ve been saying all along," Green said. "About the terrain, about how this facility doesn’t belong here. The county doesn’t want it here. Nobody has wanted this facility here.”
As we've been reporting, foul odors from the site have sickened neighbors over the two-plus years since the facility opened. Despite impassioned pleas by dozens of residents and local officials, and despite our investigation, the RRC recently renewed Blackhorn's permit by a 3-0 vote.
According to the five-page finding, an audit found that Blackhorn has been accepting waste that it should not have; and accepting it from companies that may not be under RRC jurisdiction. Blackhorn has been ordered to stop all operations immediately.
“That’s why we were all sick," Green said. "The proof was there. We just couldn’t get someone to look at it the right way.”
We contacted Blackhorn attorney Patricia Bell who said in a statement the company had received a Notice of Violation and Request for Additional Information.
Bell said Blackhorn intended to seek "an immediate hearing to review and defend these allegations."
She added that Statewide Rule 8 "authorizes the facility to continue all operations without interruption while the alleged violations are subject to the Commission's hearing process."
In a written statement to KRIS 6 News, the RRC says, "Blackhorn filed a request June 4, 2021 for a hearing in response to the Notice of Violation. That allows them to continue operation until the matter is resolved pursuant to Texas Administrative Code 3.8(d)(6)(E). Non-RRC jurisdictional wastes are not authorized and may not be received."
Green’s family and several others are involved in a lawsuit against Blackhorn. It’s been working its way through the courts. After the RRC voted to renew Blackhorn’s five-year permit in April, Green says the neighbors felt defeated, but with Friday's news, Green says this changes everything.
“I’m just you know. I’m grateful for all the hard work and for you guys at Channel 6 News for shining the light and for Matt (Stevens)," she said. "And for help from the TCEQ, the Railroad Commission, you know, the people that have been in there with us daily you know fighting. You know.”
2021.06.04 - Permit Suspension - Notice of Violation - by Ryan Garza on Scribd