Recycling has become a way of life. For some time now, we have used specially marked cans that state “For Recycling Only”.
Not only are there paper, cardboard, and plastic refuse being turned in to be reused and repurposed, but there is also an ever-increasing number of those who are willing to pick up scrap metal and haul it off, a seemingly good idea to make some extra cash and keep the environment in a healthy state of being. But what if doing a good thing turns out to be not so good in the end?
In attendance of Monday’s July 19 Manvel City Council meeting were citizens voicing concerns about their neighbor, Cameron Recycling, to the panel of city leaders. Growing complaints of noise and pollution were some of the complaints presented. As customary, the first part of the meeting is reserved for those who reside in Manvel to speak to the council members on various topics, some positive and some negative.
“My wife and I moved to Manvel to escape the traffic, high taxes, noise, pollution and other nuisances that accompany living in Houston,” said one complainant. He went on to say that his expectations were higher than what the reality has turned out to be. Next to speak was Michael Johnson, who brought several flash drives to pass out to the council members prior to the start of the meeting. On the drives were various data showing that Cameron Recycling is perhaps doing more harm than good, citing incidences of noise and pollution, along with not following proper zoning restrictions for their type of business.
In his quest to further study the history of the site, Johnson had previously requested the city provide him with all activity concerning permitting, agreements, and deals concerning the property dating back to 1991. His purpose was to make sure that the property use was within proper guidelines. The request was made on June 1, but as of yet, no information has been provided.
“Heavy Commercial Use” property, as is the case with Cameron, must maintain proper sound levels when conducting business activities, according to city ordinance.
"Daytime operations must maintain a decibel level of 65 during daytime hours, and 58 at night. Johnson and his wife Kimberly Shaw have monitored these levels religiously and have found that the levels are from 65-84 decibels on a daily basis, and continue into the night. Johnson and Shaw also claim that along with the noise annoyance, their house shakes and rattles with the use of equipment being used by Cameron Recycling.
A concern was also raised about the presence of various colored smoke, along with peculiar odors that frequently emanate from the Cameron facility. Complaints of this nature were brought to the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ) dating back to October 2015, but at the time were unconfirmed, thus no violations were issued.
After more recent complaints to the TCEQ were submitted, a compliance investigation was conducted between Feb. 7, 2020 and Aug. 18, 2020. Results from the investigation led to a “Failure to prevent a nuisance condition” violation that was issued to Cameron in December 2020. The company was offered recommendations for corrective actions to be taken to be in compliance by Feb. 16.
The company was to provide a written description and required documentation as proof of actions taken. This has still not been done, and the noise and smoke levels continue to increase according to Johnson and Shaw.
Another recent inspection of the site by TCEQ was conducted, and on July 16, Johnson was notified by the agency investigator that Cameron will once again be cited for non-compliance.
According to the latest zoning maps Johnson provided, the land owned by Cameron is zoned partly for heavy commercial and the other part (more than half of the acreage) for single family resident (SFR) use only. In conversations with the city manager, he was informed that there was no instance where the land was purchased in separate transactions and that the residential portion of the property was re-zoned to allow for commercial use.
According to Johnson, Cameron has nearly doubled in size since the purchase by the current owner in 2018, and now covers a majority of the land zoned for SFR, which violates city ordinances.
Currently, residents living in close proximity to Cameron are finding it difficult to breathe, as well as not having a chance to enjoy being in their homes for social gatherings or being in their backyard due to the noise levels, according to Shaw. One resident had to have their horse put down a little over a year after moving next door to Cameron due to the equine having COPD, which is brought on by environmental dust and toxins.
The speakers at the meeting said they want Cameron’s compliance with zoning and ordinance requirements, and need help from the city to make it happen. They have also offered to do what they can do to accomplish that. Johnson provided data to address what he feels is a growing problem.