Grayson County’s Local Emergency Planning Committee welcomed Texas Commission on Environmental Quality’s Jerrell Cooper for a presentation on hazardous waste disposal at the committee’s monthly meeting Thursday.

Grayson County’s Local Emergency Planning Committee welcomed Texas Commission on Environmental Quality’s Jerrell Cooper for a presentation on hazardous waste disposal at the committee’s monthly meeting Thursday.


The county’s LEPC is a volunteer committee of industry leaders and emergency management specialists.


Cooper made a surprise visit to the November LEPC meeting, where he took a few minutes to congratulate Grayson County for taking the initiative to establish an LEPC, and he also volunteered to give a presentation at the Thursday meeting.


Cooper’s presentation to the committee highlighted some of the important elements of safe and environmentally responsible disposal of hazardous materials by industry and factories.


Cooper emphasized that preventative measures like detailed reports of the kinds and amounts of chemicals stored in a facility are important factors in the safety of workers and first responders in an emergency.


Cooper related a story of a fire he worked at in 2011 at Magnablend, a chemical mixing plant in Waxahachie, Texas.


Cooper said he learned that there are some important questions facilities at risk for chemical fires need the answers to ahead of time: "What are the behaviors, the physical properties of the released material? Is it flammable? Is it reactive? What are the exposure pathways?


"This is really important, because as you saw on live feed at Magnablend, we had firefighters going up to the site, we didn’t even have information on this facility. That’s one of the ones that came up on our radar because of the amount of chemicals in that facility.


"Firefighters pulled up to the Eastern portion of the building, all of those hazardous, flammable chemicals running throughout the building. You might want to know, what are the behaviors, the factors of the chemicals in the building before you get anywhere near the building."


Cooper told the assembly of industry leaders and other volunteers, "Never be afraid to ask for our assistance or advice. Contact us. We tell this to industries also: Feel free to contact us if you have some questions, because in the long run, it saves you money, and we are a pro-business state."


Cooper described some of the organizational and high-tech resources that TCEQ can use to aid emergency responders during an emergency: "We can facilitate acquisition from the state and federal resources.


"When there’s a significant, really big fire, EPA has a kind of drone plane, they call it an ASPECT plane, they can fly over and they can collect air quality data from that.


That’s another unique thing we have. They actually flew that over during the Super Bowl, people thought, ‘the federal government is invading our privacy!’ They were actually doing an air quality check, to see if there was any radiological or biological activity in the area."


Cooper emphasized that besides technology and expertise, TCEQ could also bring legal assistance to emergency responders and help industries and government officials cut through red tape.


"We can oversee response time, make sure the responsible party knows that active clean-up is required. I’m straight honest with people, I’m not going to sugarcoat it; it’s not me saying it, it’s the rules saying it.


"We can run interference with insurance companies, attorneys, and other roadblocks during the early stages of incidents. This is a big one.


"Insurance companies, man they can slow down an incident, because they don’t want anybody messing up the scene, they have their recovery costs and all that, but if there’s an emergency, it supersedes that."


Besides the presentation from the TCEQ, the LEPC also approved the minutes of its November meeting, then adjourned five minutes early to allow some of the many emergency responders in the room to attend a meeting preparing for the ice storm that hit Grayson County later that afternoon.