Texas State has paid the price for failing to follow proper protocol after installing new boilers.
Two failed boilers left a portion of the university without hot water for a week in the spring of 2009. They were replaced, but before new boilers are installed and operational, the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality requires the university to perform pre-tests and report them to the TCEQ — something Texas State failed to do.
Consequentially, the TCEQ fined Texas State $17,150 in air quality violations, which include “failure to conduct initial compliance testing after the boilers were installed and failure to notify the TCEQ before the boilers were operating,” according to the case document.
Juan Guerra, associate vice president of facilities, said the TCEQ noticed these violations in the summer of 2011 during a routine inspection of the Cogeneration Power and Chiller Plant, located near Matthews Street Parking Garage.
Guerra said two new boilers were supposed to be tested, and all air emissions should have been sampled. The manager of the Cogeneration Power and Chiller Plant hired contractors to do most of the work, but did not hire anyone to run the tests, Guerra said.
“I can assume they were going to do it themselves, but they never did,” Guerra said.
Bill Nance, vice president of finance and support services, said the utility plant manager was fired for making the violations, and four other employees either resigned or retired because they were “not paying attention to detail.”
Guerra said it was essential for the university to bring in a new team that would be “more capable of managing all the utility operations.” He received notice of additional past violations, which also added to the dismissal of the five employees.
Nance said the fine was paid in March, and the TCEQ finalized the paperwork May 30.
Guerra said the fine was paid for through his utility operating budget. He said students’ tuition and fees did not pay for the fine.
Guerra said Texas State is being compliant with fixing the problem. The TCEQ will test the boilers for air quality this summer, even though Texas State has already done so, he said.
Nance said the violations are classified under the air quality component of the TCEQ, but Texas State “did not pollute the air.”
“Do we have an air quality problem? I don’t think we do, because our emissions comply, we just never filed a report proving that,” Guerra said. “We are in the process of doing that this summer.”
Guerra said changes have been made so he has records of all air emissions tests and annual reports. He said a lesson he has learned is the importance of updating records and tests periodically and keeping track of those records.
Andrea Morrow, TCEQ spokesperson, said the fine is the only repercussion for the violations since Texas State has been compliant.