AG Air blog – AK

New Air Permitting Rules for Ag Operations

Air permitting for the agriculture industry has seen sweeping changes in the last decade. Seven new Agriculture Air Quality Standard Permits issued by the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ) became effective in April 2010, making life easier for many small agriculture operators and distribution centers servicing local farmers. Air Quality Standard Permits now cover most of the air permitting requirements for the industry, making it more straightforward and consistent, while alleviating undue burdens on regulators and reducing the financial burden on applicants.

Westward was able to dig deep into regulations and logically make connections between existing law and environmental requirements to gain new understanding of the relationship between federal and state regulations. Working with the TCEQ to evaluate the permitting procedures for agriculture clients, Westward demonstrated that seed treatments should be categorized no differently than these same products applied directly to crops. In December 2015, the TCEQ updated their list of De Minimis emission sources to include application of seed treatments.

Agriculture clients can authorize many simple facilities by claiming these Standard Permits, which require no registration with the TCEQ or fees and have no public notice requirements. However, Westward has several clients who elect to have emission calculations prepared and additional documentation to demonstrate compliance with the Standard Permit when a facility is inspected by the TCEQ.

While Standard Permits are a more streamlined approach to agricultural air quality permitting, there will always be some agriculture operations that do not meet the requirements and must continue to use the other available permitting options for more complex facilities.

How accurate and precise is your drone map?

How Accurate and Precise is Your Drone Map? Can You Prove It?

Many industries have started using drones for mapping related uses—everything from volumetric measurements, topographic maps, change over time, and other applications.  The number of people offering these services has grown just as dramatically.

Whether you have an in-house crew that handles all mapping related projects or hire a third-party to complete the work, do you know if the final product is accurate or just a pretty picture?  Are they recreational grade, mapping grade, or survey grade quality?

Before you task your in-house group or hire an outside provider to map your site, you need to determine how accurate of a map you need.  Do you really need survey quality?  Generally speaking, if you are using maps for measurements such as distances, areas, or volumes, you likely need survey grade quality, which is typically much more exact and costly versus recreational grade.

Not all maps are created equal. Many firms offer low-cost, attractive maps, but the measurements derived from those maps may not be valid. It’s best to ask some straightforward questions first.

A few questions to consider: Is the mapping crew using ground control points and check points? Do they understand accuracy is relative to the ground sampling distance (GSD) value? What are they using to measure these points?  Is the equipment, in ground or air, limiting the accuracy and/or precision they can achieve?  What photogrammetric software are they using to stitch the images and rectify the maps?  How much control do they have over the processing of the data?

A mapping project can be broken down into two major phases: 1) field data collection, and 2) data processing and analysis. We have found field data collection is, while important, easier to train personnel to attain survey grade products. Data processing and analysis generally requires more survey and photogrammetry knowledge to produce quality deliverables.

Westward Environmental Inc. drone experts can audit your existing program, provide turn-key outsourcing solutions, assist in the field and/or conduct data processing/analysis, and train your staff with the most advanced technology and know-how.

Quick note: some states define surveying to include drone generated maps or measurements. Check your state’s regulations as to what they define as surveying.

When Algae Turns Toxic

When Algae Turns Toxic

It is the perfect environment for algae to bloom: long stretches of high temperatures and no significant rainfall, which results in slow moving or stagnant water. Add in nutrients like nitrogen and phosphorus, and algae blooms.

While most Texas are accustomed to this seasonal pattern, this year much of the algae in our waterways has become toxic. In fact, in the lakes and creeks around central Texas, the algae is producing anatoxin, a neurotoxin that caused the death of three dogs in early August. And just two weeks ago, a Sisterdale resident let her dog swim in the nearby Guadalupe River, and it died within an hour after ingesting some of the water.

Dr. Murl Bailey with the Texas A&M School of Veterinary Medicine said in an interview with a San Antonio TV station that if a dog ingests the algae, it can be fatal. “Some of the toxins that affect the nervous system are very fast acting, and if the animal drinks it in, it can be dead in a minute or two,” he said.

It is very difficult to determine what algae is toxic, but be aware of scum, foam or floating mats on the water surface. Algae can be a variety of colors, too—blue, green, brown or red. And though many times the algae is visible, sometimes it could be deep under the surface. A person or dog jumping in the body of water can stir up algae lurking on the bottom.

The EPA gives a warning on their website “Algal blooms can be toxic. Keep people and pets away from water that is green, scummy or smells bad.”
So as Labor Day approaches, check with local authorities if you have plans to swim in natural waterways. If you see any growth that is suspicious, better be safe and head to a chlorinated pool.

Stormwater Runoff

Stormwater: Keep it Clean

Summertime in Texas! One of our favorite ways to cool down on these long, hot summer days is to head to the river or lake.

Rivers and lakes depend on surrounding land (the watershed) for water supply. When the watershed is vegetated, rainfall can soak into the ground and be filtered prior to entering a water body. When the watershed is developed, impervious surfaces such as roofs, roads, and parking lots hinder the absorption of rainwater, causing it to become stormwater runoff. Disturbed land, such as during construction and agriculture, expose the soil, allowing sediment and pollutants to be rapidly transported from a site during a rain event. Because this stormwater runoff cannot be absorbed, it travels along streets and picks up pollutants, sediment, nutrients, and pesticides and deposits them into water bodies unfiltered.

The Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ) regulates stormwater runoff from municipal, industrial and construction sites to maintain the water quality and reduce the pollutant loads entering water bodies. TCEQ requires the implementation of Best Management Practices (BMPs) to treat impacted stormwater prior to discharge to water bodies. These BMPs include berms and swales to redirect the stormwater away from disturbed/impervious areas; ponds to hold and treat accumulated stormwater; and silt fencing, rock berms, and native vegetation to filter the runoff water prior to discharge.

Stormwater pollutants are not just industrial. Homeowners can reduce their pollutant load by incorporating the following suggestions:

  • Use fewer pesticides/fertilizers on lawns
  • Avoid overwatering lawns
  • Pick up pet waste and trash
  • Use a rain barrel to reduce the amount of runoff from your property, as well as conserving water in times of drought
  • Use porous surfaces like gravel or pavers in place of asphalt or concrete
  • Redirect home downspouts onto grass or gravel rather than paved driveways or sidewalks
  • Maintain your automobile and repair leaks, and dispose of used auto fluids and batteries appropriately
  • Visit for more ideas

Areas of Texas are rapidly developing, and it is the job of every Texan to help maintain our water quality so we can all enjoy a day at our favorite water hole!