An analysis of state data by a Texas environmental advocacy group identified Owens Brockway Glass Container Inc. as McLennan County’s highest emitter of unauthorized air pollution.
Environment Texas found the facility emitted 7,060 pounds of air pollution in 2017. Luke Metzger, the group’s executive director, said the bulk of that amount is due to maintenance activity in May 2017. During that time, the plant released 3,200 pounds of sulfur dioxide and 2,600 pounds of nitrogen oxides, which are a precursor to ozone smog, according to Environment Texas.
The report criticized the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality, saying the state agency has failed to hold industrial facilities accountable for unauthorized pollution that was attributed to equipment malfunctions and other incidents deemed unavoidable. It found 2.23 percent of all such emissions events across the state have resulted in penalties.
In a statement, TCEQ said it does not comment on outside reports.
“However, we vigorously defend our enforcement process,” it added.
Waco’s environmental region ranked eighth of 16 counties, with almost 660,000 pounds of unauthorized air pollution. The region is defined by TCEQ as McLennan, Bell, Bosque, Brazos, Burleson, Coryell, Falls, Freestone, Grimes, Hamilton, Hill, Limestone, Lampasas, Leon, Madison, Milam, Mills, Robertson, San Saba and Washington Counties.
The Midland region, in the heart of the oil and gas boom region, topped the list with 37.6 million pounds of unauthorized air pollution. Houston was second with more than 9 million pounds.
Owens Brockway, which has a large bottle plant located at 5200 Beverly Drive, did not respond to a request for comment. The company bills itself as the world’s leading glass container manufacturer.
In 2012, the U.S. Department of Justice and the Environmental Protection Agency announced the company agreed to install pollution control equipment to reduce nitrogen oxides and sulfur dioxide emissions and to pay a $1.45 million penalty to resolve violations at its five facilities, including Waco.
Metzger called Owens Brockway a “routine violator.”
The top four polluters in Waco’s region are Aker Plant in Freestone County with 513,588 pounds, Iron Duke 3H Facility in Madison County with 85,083 pounds, ETC Texas Pipeline in Burleson County with 36,975 pounds and Long Point Compressor Station in Washington County with 14,086 pounds.
“This is similar to other areas in that oil and gas pipelines and compressor stations make up some of the biggest polluters,” Metzger said.