Image of existing Brine Ponds in Mont Belvieu

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A common practice of applying for a permit to expand a Mont Belvieu business was met with a very uncommon response by local residents of a mobile home park who want to be assured their quality of life won’t be affected.

Targa Resources, a provider of liquid and natural gas, received an approval from the Railroad Commission to build two 800-foot by 600 -foot brine ponds on 55 acres of company-owned property located adjacent to Warren Road in Mont Belvieu. 

At least 30 residents of a nearby mobile home park attended a city council meeting to oppose the request Monday night.

Phil Applegate of Targa explained that the brine ponds were a necessary part of the liquid gas storage operation. As the storage units fill up, brine, a simple mixture of water saturated with salt, is pulled from the gas storage tanks and flushed through a gas extrapolator, which then burns off all light hydro-carbons.

The remaining brine is then flushed through pipes to a brine pond, free of any hydrocarbons. The operation is reversed as inventory fluctuates based on market demand.

Keith Jannise, owner of the Saw Creek Mobile Home Park, wanted Targa officials to assure him that the evaporation vapors and spillover spray from the pond would not affect his tenants and home-owners.

“We don’t believe that there is any substantial spray, even at 70 miles per hour, that would reach over the levee and affect the nearby residents,” Applegate said, noting that winds would have to come from the north at a sustained speed to cause overspray toward the neighborhood.

Applegate showed statistics that prevailing winds blow in from the southeast 67 percent of the time.

Jannise was not impressed.

“All I can tell you is we have a lot of families and a lot of homes that are going to be affected by this,” Jannise said, holding a rusted lock in his hand. “I just bought this a year ago, and look at it. This is what your brine pits cause; all this corrosion comes from your operation. My property is getting slowly destroyed while your company is getting rich. That’s not right.”

Andrew Laney, a local attorney who drafted the original charter that created the city of Mont Belvieu, addressed the Targa representatives.

“Gentlemen, you have a credibility problem,” Laney said. “Perhaps it was before your time, but the company that has been at that site has a history of being untruthful.”

Laney told of past events where his firm hired analysts to test the grounds of Warren Petroleum, Targa’s predecessor at the site, to prove that claims of small hydrocarbon releases into the soil were understated.

Laney said the test results showed the amount to actually be 14,000 times the amount Warren claimed.

Darrel Reid of Targa told Laney the land was purchased and zoned for industrial use back in the 1950s.

“So those people shouldn’t live there?” Laney asked. “Is that what you’re implying? I’m afraid that argument won’t hold water, sir. Perhaps we should just take them all out and shoot them, and sort through this later.”

Jannise asked if any of the Targa representatives would be willing to move onto the property knowing what the exposures would be.

Applegate said after working for the plant for over 15 years, he wouldn’t have an issue living there.

Reid wasn’t so sure.

“I wouldn’t live there, because I don’t like mobile homes,” Reid said. “I like real houses.”

“That’s the problem, right there,” Jannise said. “If those were big brick homes, that company would never have even thought about building those ponds there, and this council would never consider this application.

This is a case of a big company with a lot of money trying to push people that don’t have a lot out of the way. This is more than just about making money for them, this is a chance for the city to do right by its citizens, especially the ones that just have enough to get by, and don’t ask for any more.”

Courtesy Baytown Sun