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lab in Tyler admitted that neither he nor anyone in his office had ever tested for phenols before and in fact lost three samples due to improper handling before he was able to get a good one. Clydine Pate says her husband was with the health department persohnel when they took the drinking water samples and that he was appalled. “The whole thing was haphazardly done. It was obvious that the people didn’t know what they were doing.” OTHER QUESTIONS arose which were never satisfactorily an swered: Were the ponds lined with compacted clay as the earlier 1970 TDWR report maintained they must be in order to protect the quality of the groundwater in the area? The TDWR says that core samples taken when the ponds were dredged this past summer show that they were dug in bentonite clay and are safe. But two TDWR documents, which were never allowed to be introduced into evidence, say that the ponds have no liners. And the environmental engineer for the company says that only one pond was dredged. Mrs. Pate believes that the issue was “swept under the rug,” along with the question of liability. Is South Hampton covered to withstand a major oil spill or other type of industrial accident? She says that the question was never fully answered. And what about Beaumont’s drinking water? If Dr. Long is to be believed, then the increased effluent which will kill the micro-organisms in Village Creek, will in time affect the Neches. Above the Beaumont water intake, the Neches is now ‘affected by most of the same environmental hazards that Village Creek is, with the advantage of being a large body of water; below that intake, of course, the river is already dangerously polluted by the oil and chemical industry. However, if one is to believe the biologists who work for industry, there is almost no danger to Village Creek from South Hampton’s increased discharge; rather, Hinson and John Dolezal, the company’s recently hired environmental engineer, both say that the increased volume of water added to the stream will improve its quality and that toxic pollutants will only degrade and dilute before they can pose a threat. Also there have been no satisfactory answers from EPA about a report to South Hampton from James Highland of the Region 6 enforcement division, which stated that permit violations during 1979 were so high as to make the company “out of compliance under the proposed permit.” Spokesmen for EPA, however, say that they are satisfied with the TDWR compliance agreement and will issue a permit accordingly. Highland also said that since there have been so few EPA inspections, leaving the agency with so little evidence, there is no way EPA can legitimately deny the permit. While Highland did make a trip to South Hampton, later meeting with some of the protesters, EPA has stubbornly refused to hold separate hearings requested by Clean Air.. and Water, the Sabine Rod, Reel and Gun Club, and several individuals. ON MARCH 10, Ralph Yarborough spoke before the Texas Water Commission on behalf of the Big Thicket Preservation Association and the Big Thicket Conservation Association, asking that the permit be denied due to the company’s past record, while also giving the commission a brief but eloquent history of the long fight to save the Thicket, with a passing nod to the vanishing ivory-billed woodpecker. Richard Kammerman, the heretofore industry attorney, now representing J. C. “Huck” Barry and the Village Creek Preservation Association, asked that if the permit was to be granted, then it be given a one-year life rather than the normal five. The Cominission ruled for the company but held the life of the permit to two years, four months, upholding the hear The Thicket: An Update Kountze Dr. Richard Harrel, the Lamar University biologist whose sampling of the waters of the unnamed stream were the first confirmed studies to show that life in the stream was dead, told me recently that he had been sampling again and that the waters are clear, with some signs of minnows swimming about and the dissolved oxygen levels high. Mill Creek, however, the stream it empties into, is in bad shape, probably more from Kirby Lumber Co.’s upstream activity \(making particle board and pressed the creek are low and there is visible fiber pollution. Mill Creek would, of course, worsen if residents insist that South Hampton pipe its waste directly into Mill Creek as the Sierra Club recommended. Harrel, who has his Lamar University biology students in the Big Thicket frequently, using the Thicket as a lab, believes the unnamed stream is clearing because of the low activity at South Hampton, which is still operating with a skeleton crew. If the company ever gets back to full production, the condition of the stream, he predicts, will change. Environmental groups are seriously considering a lawsuit if the company fails to meet its permit, and if the state again fails to enforce with punitive action. The real gripe has always been that the law was never enforced. An EPA administrator who didn’t want to be quoted by name, told me that with Reagan in office, citizen’s groups were the last hope. Some of the best people in the Dallas and Houston offices are leaving, he said, and others are sitting on their hands to protect their jobs. With additional EPA funding cuts, small polluters like South Hampton will get no agency attention. Despite South Hampton’s violations, it was interesting that none of the local people wanted the company shut down. Hardin County is not a prosperous area, and its people, who don’t want to live and work in Beaumont or Port Arthur, are trying hard to live compatibly with the few industries in the area \(timber and oil drilling, movement has been led by a few, now weary, people; the South Hampton experience at least had the effect of broadening the base of the movement and creating a few more activists. In the local cafes I’ve heard comments about the refinery I never expected to hear; most people doing the commenting were mad as hell. B.B. 10 JUNE 18, 1982