A state environmental agency's investigations at Kilgore College found multiple environmental violations, some of which have been resolved and one the college must respond to by the end of the month.
The investigations were done in November, December and January by the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality. They stemmed from allegations made by Dalton Smith, the college's physical plant coordinator, who late last year presented recordings and other evidence suggesting college officials and maintenance workers were long aware the college was improperly abating and disposing of asbestos and other hazardous materials.
His evidence included recordings of conversations with a college administrator who discussed covering up asbestos violations and talked about withholding environmental reports from the public by manipulating members of the elected board of trustees.
The college denied the allegations, but has since begun an asbestos abatement program on campus.
Other recordings, of discussions with maintenance workers, indicated college employees hid the burial of hundreds of pounds of hazardous materials at non-authorized sites, violations for which the TCEQ cited the college in its findings.
According to the Feb. 17 notice of violation, the problems found are:
Failure to dispose of solid waste at an authorized facility.
"During the December, 10, 2014, investigation, the investigator observed an unauthorized disposal site on the Kilgore College Firing and Driving Range on the fire training side of the facility," the investigative report states. "The trash pile consisted of demolition debris, scrap metal, old fire hose, one lead acid battery and miscellaneous other trash."
The TCEQ's recommended corrective action said the college "must cease disposal of unauthorized waste at the Firing and Driving Range." The report said the "waste must be disposed of at an authorized facility." The college must also provide documentation in the form of receipts and pictures to the agency's regional Tyler office.
In the recordings made by Smith, maintenance workers discussed improperly disposing of asbestos and other material at the firing range.
The college has until March 31 to provide the state with a written description of corrective actions taken.
Failure to perform a hazardous waste determination.
"On November 24, 2014, and December 10, 2014, the investigator observed two 55-gallon drums, one 30-gallon drum and a 1-pint amber bottle and two 1-quart amber bottles of unknown waste," the report states. "In addition, 42 pharmaceutical bottles were noted. One 55-gallon drum was located at the Firing and Driving Range, a 55-gallon and a 30-gallon drum were located at the greenhouse at the Demonstration Farm. The pharmaceutical bottles were located in the East Texas Oil Museum."
The recommended corrective action was to perform a hazardous waste determination on the drums, pharmaceutical bottles and other containers. That was done, and the violation was resolved in mid-February.
Smith said in November that the college's maintenance workers were told to "get rid of" the hazardous materials in anyway they could before the college's upcoming Environmental Protection Agency Peer Audit Review.
Three other violations were resolved. They included a failure to label containers as hazardous waste, an open lid on waste paint thinner in the auto body workshop classroom and failure to label used oil containers as such. All three were reported resolved by the college being notified of proper procedure, and the state investigator witnessing corrective actions.
No asbestos violations
The report's findings come just months after the college's EPA Peer Audit Review in which college President Bill Holda said the college did very well.
Kilgore College spokesman Chris Craddock said Friday that Holda would not be available for comment on the agency's findings until after spring break, which begins Monday.
In a statement issued Saturday, Craddock noted the report included no evidence of asbestos violations on or off campus.
"The report lists only those items that were found in violation. None of the violations have triggered any fines," he said. "There were a total of five alleged violations, four of which have been resolved according to the report."
The unresolved item, regarding improper disposal at the firing range facility, "has been delayed by the bad weather, but it is in progress and will easily be completed prior to the deadline."
College trustee Brian Nutt, who said in November he had been questioned by federal investigators about the college's alleged mishandling of hazardous materials, issued a statement Friday in response to the TCEQ's findings - making clear he was speaking only for himself and not on behalf of the board.
"We have made great progress on cleaning any violations and potentially harmful substances," Nutt said of developments on campus since questions about environmental safety were raised in the fall. "Safety has always been my first concern when it comes to students and employees.
"I am glad the TCEQ violations have been mostly resolved. I am eager to have the unauthorized disposal site at the Kilgore College Firing and Driving Range cleaned up. I am certain that whatever is found buried or underneath that pile will be disposed of properly and in a timely fashion."
That's what happened after friable asbestos was found through testing ordered in campus buildings at the end of last year, he said.
"The college did a great job of taking care of all of the immediate and intermediate risks at Dodson" Auditorium, Nutt said. "I know they hauled off at least one 40-yard dumpster of asbestos-containing material and possibly more. It is terrific to know that we are getting all of this behind us so we can completely focus on student success."
After Smith's allegations became public in November, the college hired ERI Consulting to survey the college for possible asbestos risks.
The consulting firm recommended several abatements, beginning with Dodson Auditorium. Other abatement projects included the Rangerette Gym and an upcoming summertime abatement in Randolph C. Watson Library.
Smith did not respond Friday to a request for comment about the state environmental agency's findings. Other trustees also declined comment.
Rick Murphy, a college maintenance worker heard in Smith's recordings admitting to dumping violations and asbestos mishandling, recently retired after 22 years and 11 months of service.
Craddock said in November and later reaffirmed that Murphy, who was unlicensed for abatement procedures, had performed "small" asbestos abatements at the campus.
Christine Mann, a spokeswoman for the Texas Department of State Health Services, said at the time no asbestos work could properly be done by unlicensed personnel.
"Under current state rules for asbestos abatement in public buildings in Texas, there are no 'small job' exceptions or exemptions," she said.