TCEQ regulations to address illegal cesspools

By Becky Brewster

Culberson County Commissioners learned that a Search and Rescue (SAR) Team is being formed in Culberson County in response to a recent search and rescue mission on an area ranch as well as a request from the Safety Officer with the pipeline company constructing a pipeline in the northern part of the County in areas where there may be drops of up to 500 feet.  Luis Herrera, EMS Director, and fellow EMS staffers Matthew Velez and Anthony Velasquez, outlined the plans for the SAR program noting that the initial team consists of members from the EMS, the Van Horn Volunteer Fire Department, the Border Patrol and the Sheriff’s Office.  They have also secured partnership agreements with El Paso, Horizon and Yselta primarily for training.  Herrera stated that the SAR Team “would be an asset to the community, to Culberson County and the surrounding areas,” noting that there are no SAR Teams in either Hudspeth County or Carlsbad.  Herrera further reported that the team has limited equipment and needs specialized training for search and rescue missions.  The SAR is seeking grant funding as well as funding from the County for training and equipment. The Commissioners agreed to consider potential funding during the County’s budget process.

The Court also heard a report from Lainie Koch, Extension Agent, on 4-H activities.  Seven members will be participating in the upcoming District 6 Wildlife Challenge. Four members have been selected to participate in the Texas 4-H Congress in July.  The team, consisting of Cory Schuller, Diff Torres, Kristian Robb and Beatriz Marta, are in the process of developing a bill to present to Congress for consideration.

The Commissioners discussed the upcoming Runoff Election and agreed to close ALL County offices on Tuesday, May 24, 2016 for the election.  The Commissioners also discussed issues that arose regarding the consolidation of the precincts during the Primary Election in March.  County Clerk Linda McDonald reminded the Court that the Democratic Party and the Republican Party were in charge of the respective primary elections and suggested the Commissioners express any concerns to the party chairs. The County is only responsible for the November general elections.

Illegal cesspools are causing a bit of a stink in the County as landowners are scrambling to accommodate the influx of RVs belonging to pipeliners moving into the area. Commissioners learned there have been instances of landowners just digging a hole for the sewage disposal. The County will contact the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ) that regulates sewage disposal as this is creating a major health concern.  County Attorney Steve Mitchell discussed similar hodge-podge development that led to the adoption of Colonia laws many years ago, noting that TCEQ can work with other utilities to withhold services until a certified septic system is installed.   Judge Urias reported that the TCEQ recently shut down the construction of a gas plant in the northern part of the County because they did not have a 911 address.  The Judge coordinated with the Rio Grande Council of Governments to get a 911 address to get the project back on track.  This issue may also apply to the illegal RV parks springing up within the area.  Landowners are reminded to check with the County and the TCEQ to ensure they are in compliance with all regulations for developing an RV park.

In other County business, the Court also

• Conducted an Executive Session with no action following in open session.

• Approved tires for the County Judge’s vehicle.

• Approved training hours for the County Treasurer, Susie Hinojos.

• Renewed an intergovernmental Lease with the Department of State Health Services for 5 years beginning 9-20-17.

• Approved the 2016-2017 Budget and Tax Rate Planning Calendar.

• Heard reports on County Projects.

• Approved April payroll and expenses.