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The clash between industry and environment at a Texas Baptist camp

Key Points

  • The Texas Railroad Commission approved permits for oilfield waste disposal ponds near Latham Springs Baptist Camp, raising environmental and safety concerns.
  • The camp, serving thousands annually, fears the waste could contaminate water and soil, impacting its operations and local water supplies.
  • Legal options are being considered to challenge the permits, emphasizing the need for responsible environmental stewardship.

The Texas Railroad Commission has approved the construction of oilfield waste disposal ponds next to Latham Springs Baptist Camp, a decision that has sparked significant concern among the camp’s administration and the wider community. This camp, which hosts over 20,000 guests annually, primarily for religious and educational retreats, is now faced with the prospect of having hazardous waste ponds as its immediate neighbor. The main concerns revolve around potential water and soil contamination, which could adversely affect the camp’s operations and the health of its guests, not to mention the broader environmental implications for the local ecosystem and water supplies.

Latham Springs Baptist Camp’s leadership is actively considering legal avenues to challenge the permits, arguing that the project poses a direct threat to the camp’s mission of providing a safe and nurturing environment for spiritual growth and learning. The situation highlights a broader debate on the balance between industrial development and environmental stewardship, especially in areas of significant natural beauty and community importance.

The Texas Tribune:

Researchers have found produced water in the Permian Basin contains radionuclides, volatile organic compounds like benzene, ethylbenzene, toluene and xylene—also referred to as BETX—and extremely high salt content. The open ponds of produced water would be just 500 feet from the camp.

These chemicals can cause headaches after brief exposure, and more prolonged exposure has been linked to neurological damage and cancer.

DiGiulio explained that these VOCs will vaporize into gas.

“And then these VOCs … are going to be moving downwind,” he said.

Read the full article.

Themes Pros Cons
Environmental Impact Potential for stricter regulations in the future Risk of water and soil contamination
Community & Health Awareness and community mobilization Health risks for camp attendees and locals
Legal & Policy Response Possibility of legal recourse and policy change Legal battles can be costly and time-consuming

Questions to Consider

  1. How do industrial developments near community and religious sites balance economic benefits with environmental and health risks?
  2. What measures can be taken to ensure the safety and integrity of natural resources when they are at risk of contamination?
  3. In what ways can communities effectively mobilize to protect their interests in the face of potentially harmful industrial activities?

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