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6 Investigates: State received more than 130 complaints about foul odors from Kane Beef

Posted: 6:57 PM, Jan 23, 2019
Updated: 2019-01-24 08:24:45-05

More than 130 complaints about foul odors coming from Kane Beef Processors prompted multiple investigations during the past two years.

That’s according to records released Tuesday by the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality. Those records provided a detailed look at how often state environmental investigators visited the plant and surrounding neighborhoods since the complaints began in February 2017.

The plant’s air quality permit is now up for review, and a hearing is scheduled for next month.

Last month, TCEQ confirmed an investigation after the City of Corpus Christi reported 75,000 gallons of sewage had overflowed into a ditch behind the plant. The investigation will determine who was at fault – the city or the plant.

That investigation has continued, and so has another one into neighbors complaining about putrid smells coming from the plant.

It smells like “stinky, rotting meat, and it doesn’t go away,” neighbor Lynda Spurlock said during an interview in December. “In fact, if it’s all day long it will settle in the backyards.”

Documents released Tuesday by TCEQ showed the highest volume of complaints occurred in the summer of 2018. In August, the state received 44 complaints about the foul odors.

That month investigators showed up at the Kane Beef plant three different times to determine the source – and focused on an area called the rendering plant.

It’s where cow bones and residual fat is taken after the meat packing process. Those byproducts are then processed in the rendering plant where the bones go through a grinder and the fat boiled. A TCEQ investigation showed the rendering plant often was the source of the smell.

The report showed employees “failed to keep the doors closed.”

In November, TCEQ notified the plant it would take enforcement action, which required the plant to submit a detailed maintenance plan and be subjected to regular inspections.

An inspection inside the rendering plant found holes in the duct and ventilation system, said attorney Richard Schmidt, the appointed federal receiver who is overseeing plant operations during the bankruptcy proceedings.

“Once we patched them up, we surveyed it again and found that now that it was without holes. Some of the weaker areas were also leaking, so we’ve patched those,  also,” he said.

Since December, the complaints have dropped,  according to TCEQ records.

Since the bankruptcy case filing, the community should be assured that all environmental regulations will be followed, Schmidt said.

“When you’re in bankruptcy, you are required to comply with the environmental rules and regulations established by whoever the appropriate authority is,” he said.