01/03/13 1:30pm

UP IN THE PINES TO STOP THE KEYSTONE XL PIPELINE Three hours north of Houston in Cherokee County, reports Brantley Hargrove, protesters interfering with a 485-mile section of TransCanada pipeline being built to carry diluted bitumen south to refineries on the Gulf Coast faced some resistance of their own: “[An] 18-wheeler bearing a cherry picker to pluck protesters out of trees slowed as it approached a shouting, sign-wielding crowd. Several young men leaped in its path. One fell beneath the truck. The others screamed and pounded the hood with their fists. A deputy rounded the front of the truck and drove the protesters back, loosing clouds of pepper spray. [A 75-year-old woman], standing off to the side of the road, caught a gust of the burning mist.” Separately, TransCanada’s website notes its plans for the Houston Lateral Project (shown in red on the map), a 47-mile spur that will come close to Beltway 8. [Houston Press; Gulf Coast Project] Map: TransCanada

08/26/11 12:20pm

In what appears to be a last-ditch effort to block construction of Segment E, the straight-throught-the-Katy-Prairie section of the Grand Parkway scheduled to begin construction this month, the Sierra Club has filed a new suit against the Army Corps of Engineers, the DOT, the FHA, the Texas Transportation Commission, and several public officials. But the lawsuit also focuses attention on the health of the Addicks and Barker Dams on Buffalo Bayou, which control waterflow through west and Downtown Houston. According to a July 2010 document unearthed by the environmental group this past March through an information request, the Army Corps has rated the status of both dams as “urgent and compelling” since September 2009; that rating indicates the Corps considers them to be 2 of the 6 most dangerous dams in North America.

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03/30/11 9:50pm

COMMENT OF THE DAY: THIS LAND IS THEIR LAND “Heard about it. Shouldn’t matter who the purchaser is, in fact, after reading your comments, it is probably more fair all around if they do not disclose who they are. Posters on this site are quite amazing. I am astonished daily in what they seem to feel they are entitled to when it comes to property owned by others. And how much Swamplot originators do to creatively stir the pot.” [LudiKris, commenting on How Does a Public Notice About ExxonMobil’s Giant New Corporate Campus Stay Under the Radar?]

10/02/09 3:50pm

DOWNTOWN’S PIGEON POOP POWDER KEG WILL NOT GO BOOM Swamplot reader ms. rosa reports on tonight’s scheduled demolition of the 1906 Savoy Apartments building (later the Savoy-Field Hotel) at Main St. and Pease Downtown: “Just spoke with Cherry [Demolition]. They will start tearing down the building tonight (Friday, October 2, 2009) at 7:00pm. It will not be imploded (as hoped!)” [Swamplot; previously]

09/24/09 11:17am

City officials have decided to give the owner of the original 1906 Savoy Apartments building on Main St. Downtown an extra week to knock down the structure before going ahead with their own emergency demolition plan. The building’s owner — listed in Harris County records as Michael Nassif — will now have until midnight next Friday, October 2nd, to have a contractor of his own choice begin dismantling the structure. If that doesn’t happen, the city-selected contractor will complete the demo that weekend — and leave the property with a lien for the $448,600 cost.

While negotiations have focused on how quickly work can begin, residents of the Beaconsfield across Pease St. may be more interested in how long the demo will take — and how it will be done. Architect David Hall, who has studied the building for several developers, spoke to abc13 reporter Gene Apodaca about the asbestos embedded in the building’s crumbling interior plaster:

“It’s full of environmental issues. There are pathogens that are a result of the pigeon droppings, there are areas of the building I measured where pigeon droppings were six inches thick,” said Hall.

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08/17/09 12:23pm

The old Bruce Elementary School on Bringhurst St. in the Fifth Ward — featured on Swamplot just last week and apparently just about ready to go up for sale — went up in flames last Friday night, reports our neighborhood correspondent. A story featured on Abc13 news says the building did suffer major damage from the flames, and makes it sound as if arson is suspected. Did any of the asbestos do its job?

Photo of former Bruce Elementary School, 713 Bringhurst St.: Vaughn Mueller

08/10/09 11:17am

Swamplot’s new “Bottom” of the Fifth Ward correspondent Vaughn Mueller reports from the site of the old Bruce Elementary School, where a sign indicates the property is for sale. A source tells Swamplot that a few details need to be worked out before it’s “officially” on the market, but an HISD web page provides some information about the property.

The school, which was closed at the end of the spring 2007 semester, sits along Cage and Bringhurst on the I-10 feeder road, and comprises a little more than 2 blocks. Mueller reports that the new Bruce Elementary (built by a 2002 HISD bond) less than a mile away on Jensen opened its doors in the fall of 2007.

Why the move?

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08/05/09 1:39pm

Good news for the residents of Grace Ln. who back up to that Griggs Rd. waste treatment and disposal facility run by CES Environmental Services! It’ll probably be a while before another thermal oxidizer ruptures and sends four-foot-wide metal pieces flying over their back fences again:

“I mean, this was metal that could have decapitated people,” [Grace Ln. resident and salon owner Kimberly Sadberry] said. “It was sharp. We had to put it on a dolly to take it back, it was that heavy.”

CES assured residents nothing like that would ever happen again, but less than two weeks later, another explosion occurred, she said.

Why the grace period now? Responding to complaints about intermittent explosions and noxious smells emanating from the plant — as well as the fiery death last month of a CES employee as he attempted to clean a tanker truck — police officers and federal agents raided the facility yesterday morning. And figuring out what’s really going on there might take a while:

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12/29/08 8:59am

HIGHER POWERS OF THE HOUSTON-GALVESTON REGION Environmental attorney Jim Blackburn gets religion: “At AA, they told me that that I had to admit that I was powerless over alcohol. They also told me that I needed to acknowledge a ‘higher power’ which was described as a power greater than myself that would provide me with spiritual strength sufficient to give me the ability to change. Well – I fought both concepts, particularly that of a higher power. It seemed like capitulation, that I had to return to the religion within which I was raised and from which I had fled. And then at a meeting one day, a young man said that his higher power was a METRO bus. The METRO bus as a higher power made me smile and it allowed me to loosen up and think more creatively. At this time, I was doing work on Galveston Bay and had a good feeling about the bay, so I chose Galveston Bay as my higher power, a truly life-changing event.” [Blackburn & Carter, via OffCite]

12/11/08 1:23pm

Neighbors of a permitted, non-hazardous waste treatment and disposal plant less than a mile south of Riverside Terrace have been upset by the stench that regularly rises from the new facility. And last weekend there was a bit of an eruption at the CES Environmental Services plant at 4904 Griggs Rd.:

No one was injured in Saturday’s explosion, but it was the latest in a series of incidents involving the treatment facility, which is permitted to handle non-hazardous industrial waste, such as used oil.

The city has received more than 135 complaints about the plant this year, mostly related to the odors.

So what exactly landed in the yards along Grace Lane in McGregor Terrace? Exploded waste?

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12/08/08 2:43pm

An awful stench has been wafting through the homes of Golden Glade Estates, just west of Hobby Airport and south of Sims Bayou. There’s also been backyard flooding after every rain, a constant din from trucks, and generator-powered lighting beaming into local Living Rooms during the night. The cause? Huge piles of wood debris, brought into the southeast Houston neighborhood after Hurricane Ike:

Their problems started when Federal Emergency Management Agency contractors began trucking in hundreds of semi truckloads of pungent smelling, steaming mulch. Local 2 Investigates cameras and Sky 2 helicopter footage show some mounds stacked taller than nearby homes, covering acres of land less than 100 yards from some homes.

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09/25/08 5:23pm

IKE’S TOXIC IMPRINT So far, regulatory officials have identified 228 sites potentially poisoned with gasoline, industrial chemicals, feces and other contaminants from Greater Houston to Lake Charles, La. But none of the reported spills is considered major, authorities said. Cmdr. Virginia Kammer, who leads the U.S. Coast Guard’s cleanup efforts along the Texas coastline, said the largest spill was about 3,000 barrels, and the responsible facility moved quickly to get the problem under control.” What about the region’s 28 Superfund sites? No word yet, but the EPA has “started to investigate.” [Houston Chronicle]

09/24/08 4:41pm

SHOULD GALVESTON BE REBUILT? “The city and its environs rest on barrier islands, which are made of sand, low-lying and prone to significant geological shifts. In Galveston’s case, even before Ike’s landfall, the island was both sinking slowly and becoming sharply eroded along its west end. Moreover, a couple of years ago, the city itself commissioned University of Texas geologist Jim Gibeaut to create a geohazards map for the island, that is, where should development not occur? The research study found that nearly all the development along the beach front west of the seawall, which protects the core of the island, is in ‘red’ or ‘yellow’ zones, where Gibeaut says development should not occur.” [SciGuy]

09/23/08 3:16pm

HOUSTON BAYOUS: NOW FEATURING RAW SEWAGE! “Ever since the hurricane, a number of the city’s waste water treatment plants went without power. As a result, the city was forced to actually dump raw sewage straight into the bayous. First of all, it smells awful. There have also been some oil slicks along the waterways. And you can’t miss the dead fish.” [abc13]

09/18/08 6:36pm

House and Damaged Boat on Taylor Lake, Taylor Lake Village, Texas, after Hurricane Ike

A note from the City of Taylor Lake Village:

Taylor Lake is closed to recreation – swimming, boating, fishing, and water skiing. The Gulf Coast Waste Disposal Authority industrial wastewater treatment plant on Port Road was inundated during the storm and its ponds of untreated industrial and sanitary waste overflowed into Taylor Lake. The Lake may be contaminated with industrial pollutants (volatile organic and other compounds) and bacteriological contaminants. Residents should avoid all contact with Taylor Lake water until further notice.

Any other area industrial pollutants gone AWOL after Ike? Where did they end up?

Photo of house and damage on Taylor Lake: Flickr user Linda Railsback