Frustration should be boiling over in the wake of Texas State’s embarrassing oversight, which cost multiple people their jobs and the school more than $17,000.
According to information from the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality, Texas State was fined $17,150 for two offenses. The first was failing to notify the TCEQ before two new water boilers were operational. The second was failing to perform an official compliance test after the boilers were installed on campus. The new boilers were put into place after a boiler went out and left the residence halls without hot water for two weeks in the winter of 2009.
Texas State officials need to ensure that proper procedures and designated tests for campus projects are successfully completed. The employees working on the boiler at the Cogeneration Power and Chill Plant should have better communication skills, proper incident training and knowledge on the TCEQ policies. These improvements would ensure an official boiler test and report do not slip through the cracks again.
Although the university’s lapse did not pollute the air, the fine by the TCEQ is still damaging.
Since the plant employees failed to test the boilers and sample the air emissions, a few of the workers have retired, resigned or been fired from their positions. According to a June 27 University Star article, some of the employees had additional violations in the past. Small operational oversights do happen, but a fine of this scale could have been avoided by ensuring that reliable and trained officials are on hand at the plant.
Money is tight everywhere at the university level, and the $17,000 fine from the utility operating budget would have been better served easing strain elsewhere. Members of the custodial staff may soon be working night hours and cleaning more buildings filled with more people than ever, and that money may have helped ease the burden on them.
The university cannot go back and undo the past. Lessons need to be learned from errors. Although no student tuition and fees went to pay the $17,150 fine, the utility operating budget felt the burden financially. The boiler incident should be an example of why Texas State should tighten up its relationship with the TCEQ. The university needs to make sure designated plant employees are aware and on the same page about the regulated boiler standards.
Almost 100 other entities were also fined by the TCEQ, according to the same May 30 TCEQ violation report. Dow Chemical Company in Brazoria County was given a $207,378 fine for five reporting violations and one related to exceeding annual allowable emission rates. Texas State has no excuse for environmental violations given the significance of the San Marcos community, even when $17,150 seems a small price to pay when compared to other’s fines.
The university is surrounded by precious natural resources such as the Edwards Aquifer and the San Marcos River. Because of this, extra preparation should always be taken with campus boilers to keep the community as eco-friendly as possible.