The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ), and Texas Parks and Wildlife are opening a criminal investigation to look into whether a Dallas meat packing plant was dumping its waste water into a local creek. The criminal investigation ensued after images, taken from an unmanned-aerial-vehicle (UAV) pilot, showed the creek behind the meat packing plant filled with blood.
The amateur pilot had been flying his UAV below the designated four hundred feet while taking pictures of the surrounding area. After reviewing the images, the pilot – who wishes to remain anonymous – noticed the contamination and contacted local environmental agencies and the Coast Guard. His courage in coming forward to report the contamination has led to a two month investigation and the execution of a search warrant.
The meat packing plant is run by the Columbia Packing Company, which issued a statement declaring surprise and unawareness over the allegations. However, according to the Dallas County Health and Human Services and the search warrant, pig blood was being swept into the creek located behind the meat packing plant through an underground pipe. Furthermore, authorities, who have tested the waters in the back of the meat packing plant, have indeed found large amounts of pig blood in the water. What’s even more disturbing is that investigators also found byproducts, contaminants, waste products, and other toxic wastes related to animal processing. This has led to much concern because the underground pipe is not linked to a waste water system and the creek flows directly into the Trinity River.
The contamination of our water sources from disease-causing agents found in blood, can lead to the spread of human illnesses. The risk of infection from bacteria, parasitic worms, protozoa, and viruses increase when our water sources are contaminated from pollution coming from agriculture, factories, and sewage treatment plants. In this case, swimmers and kayakers are at risk given that a portion of the Trinity River has been a popular place for kayakers.
The recent news has sparked debate over whether aerial drones should be used to monitor such operations. Currently, it is illegal in the United States to operate drones commercially. However, model aircrafts can be flown at or below elevations of 400 feet, and government and law enforcement agencies can acquire licenses to operate aircrafts at higher altitudes.
In addition, stricter enforcement of laws and regulations can prevent future pollution of water sources. To some, this recent occurrence of water contamination is a bit odd, given that there are strong regulations in place to prevent this kind of pollution from occurring. However, others, such as Zach Trahan, program director for the non-profit, Texas Campaign for the Environment, blame companies for violating environmental laws. He further stated that some companies have a “go take it back out attitude” in some some areas of Texas. Whatever the reason may be for why or how this latest pollution occurred, it is important for companies to prioritize the prevention of pollution. If companies made it a priority to prevent pollution, environmental damage and the costs associated with environmental damage could be avoided.
Photo credit: liverpool.nsw.gov.au/LCC/INTERNET/me.get?site.sectionshow&PAGE1230&BODY