State air monitoring vehicles stayed in Austin during Harvey, Channel 2 Investigates discovers

By Mario Diaz

HOUSTON - Once Bakeyah Nelson with Air Alliance Houston started getting calls about a foul odor emerging from the Valero's complex in Manchester, she decided to take a unique step in the aftermath of Harvey, "We felt that we wanted to capture our own data."

Nelson, the executive director of Air Alliance Houston brought in Entanglement Technologies from California to measure pollution levels and compare their findings to those by government agencies -- like Texas Environmental Quality, the state's commission on environmental quality.

However, there was one problem, Channel 2 Investigates learned following the dramatic environmental impact of Harvey on the area, that Texas Commission on Environmental Quality's (TCEQ) air-monitoring vehicles never made it to Houston, "It's been sitting in Austin this whole time,” according to Brian Zabcik, with Environment Texas. 

TCEQ acknowledged to Channel 2 Investigates their air-monitoring vehicles had not been deployed in nearly four months.

In fact, we found them sitting in an Austin parking lot nearly two weeks ago.

A TCEQ spokesperson told Channel 2 Investigates, “The decision to use these units is case-by-case and dependent upon the targeted source(s), pollutants of interest, and accessibility of the area."

TCEQ adds they did have investigators on the ground with handheld monitoring equipment.

They also leaned on the EPA's mobile laboratory as well as aviation monitoring tests.

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