For the past few months, Steel Dynamic Inc. (SDI) and The Aransas Project (TAP) have been at odds regarding the steel mill’s discharge of treated wastewater into Chiltipin Creek in Sinton. TAP recently filed claims with the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ) which caused work to be halted on SDI’s water treatment plant located at the facility, even with nothing more than a couple of tanks being built on the site.
The new mill requires a Texas wastewater permit called a TPDES permit that is nearing issuance by the TCEQ. TAP submitted comments on the draft permit in late 2020, focusing on the presence of metals in the planned discharge. According to TAP, SDI heard their concerns, and the two entities engaged in a discussion regarding ways they might work together to further protect water quality.
On March 22, the parties reached an agreement where TAP would withdraw its opposition to the issuance of the permit and SDI would build a constructed wetlands treatment system.
“We’re an American company focused on our industry’s sustainable future and are always looking for innovative projects that complement that goal,” SDI Senior Vice President Glenn Pushis said. “We hope that partnering with TAP on this constructed wetlands project demonstrates our commitment to protecting our shared environment.”
According to TAP, scientific literature has shown that constructed wetlands can remove 50 percent or more of metals in wastewater, depending upon the metal being evaluated. Effluent testing will be conducted to determine the efficiency of the system.
In addition to treating the steel mill’s process wastewater in accordance with the TPDES permit requirements, SDI will add this constructed wetlands as a polishing step that takes advantage of nature’s own processes to further clean the water.
SDI and TAP will work jointly on the design of the constructed wetlands, with TAP being assisted by Dr. Jack Matson and his colleagues.
TAP and SDI believe that when parties with seemingly different goals put aside their differences and instead focus on the issue at hand, there is opportunity for real progress. TAP believes that this water quality protection project will demonstrate that a productive economy and a protected natural environment can coexist, and they are hopeful it may serve as a model for sustainable manufacturing in South Texas and beyond.
“We are very optimistic about this settlement agreement to construct and operate a wetland polishing system,” TAP President Jim Blackburn said. “There is a lot of work to be done going forward. We are rolling up our sleeves and beginning the design process.”
The entire project will be paid for and maintained by SDI and will be built on their facility grounds.