Fear mounts over proposed liquid waste facility in Rio Hondo

For the last 14 years, Nancy Venegas has lived across the street from the Rio Hondo Waste Water Treatment Plant along North Reynolds Road.

She did not know about plans to add a new facility at the site.

"We didn't expect it and it's just coming in here all of the sudden," Venegas said.

The proposed processing facility is for restaurant and car wash liquid waste.

Venegas worries about her family's safety with the addition.

She doesn't think her concerns will be heard.

"What can we do?" she asked. "I don't even think our voice will matter to them if we do say something or not."

A non-profit organization called Texas Campaign for the Environment has collected nearly 50 signatures from people in Rio Hondo who want to know more about the waste facility in question.

The push has gotten the attention of State Representative Rene Oliveira, who's called for his constituents' concerns to be addressed.

He wrote a letter to the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality asking the agency to hold a public hearing in the city regarding any plans by Partners Dewatering International.

The company, a subsidiary of S.O.S. Liquid Waste Haulers, would operate the facility, according to Oliveira.

"We're right near drainage systems, canal areas," the state rep. said. " We're so close to the arroyo. We just need to make sure that everything is going to be done right."

The facility would house large storage tanks at the waste water treatment plant, according to Carter Mayfield, director of finance at S.O.S.

He said any liquid grease would be directly processed through the city TMs waste water treatment plant.

Solid matter would have to be removed.

Mayfield said since the facility is would be built on an existing waste water treatment plant, there would be very little negative impact on people who live in the area.

"Basically what this plant is going to do, it TMs going to be located on top of the existing waste water plant. So, we don TMt expect the quality of life issue to change at all," he explained.

Mayfield said an agreement with Rio Hondo to be built the facility had been in place since 2009.

The company believes the project will bring new jobs and revenue for the city.

Oliveira doesn't doubt the economic impact.

His concern stems from the company's registration process.

Because they recycle a portion of the waste, S.O.S. can file for registration rather than going through a formal permitting process requiring TCEQ approval, according to Oliveira.

By calling for a public meeting, he believes citizen concerns can be effectively addressed.

"If there is a problem, I want the state to jump on it, and expect them to do so," he said.

A representative with Partners Dewatering International spoke at Tuesday evening's city commission meeting in Rio Hondo.

A date for the TCEQ to meet in the city has not yet been set.

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