BLANCO COUNTY, Texas (KXAN) — “We were working in the yard and noticed a huge black smoke coming up from the area,” said Wendy Barber.
Barber noticed the smoke that began around 8 a.m. wasn’t going away, so she drove to find the source. She ended up at MPG, a pipeline contractor located off Highway 281 about a mile north from the City of Blanco.
“I called MPG contacts, I called Permian Basin contacts, I called the news, I called my state representative Erin Zwiener and I filed a complaint with TCEQ,” Barber said.
Brad MacLean, a spokesperson for MPG, says employees got permission from the fire department before their burn, and once they received the complaint Thursday morning, they stopped.
Matthew McMain, fire chief for Blanco County ESD No. 2, says he was driving in the area when he noticed the smoke himself, because dispatch told him they weren’t notified of the controlled burn.
McMain says he allowed it to continue and says crews told him they were burning a “wood-like” substance. He says he informed them they’d need to clear controlled burns with dispatch next time.
MacLean tells KXAN they were burning broken hardwood mats, which crews drive over at worksites.
“We do burns on the property of cedar and old lumber from the construction, and I never have had a black smoke plume like that, and not for an entire day and then starting a second day, as well,” Barber said.
MacLean says the burn lasted from about 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Wednesday and 8 a.m. to 9:30 a.m. Thursday.
McMain says he did note the smoke seemed very dark, but says that may be due to the fuel source. He says the material had already been burning for sometime when he saw it and could not tell what it was at the time.
Barber hopes the TCEQ investigates her complaint to ensure that nothing toxic went into the air.
“Those of us that have lived in the Blanco area and seen all the things that MPG hauls up and down the highway… know what the ‘wood-like’ materials are that they’re probably burning. And it’s those old railroad tie things, it’s things that I would suspect have a toxic something on them,” Barber said.
“It’s my impression we’re just supposed to trust what they’re doing. And, not until we see a big black plume of smoke going up do you go, ‘Well, is someone really watching them?'”
TCEQ says it has not received any previous complaints for the facility and will conduct an on-site investigation to decide if there are any compliance issues.
MPG is a contractor for Kinder Morgan’s Permian Highway Pipeline. However, Kinder Morgan says the smoke is not associated with maintenance for their project.