Gulf of Mexico
Environmental advocates flash signs in opposition to desalination plants at a recent public hearing. (Photo by Chase Rogers, Corpus Christi Caller Times)

TX - Public raises concerns on Corpus Christi plastic plant's marine desalination plans

Critics have raised concerns about the potential environmental impact of discharging brine, a byproduct of desalination, into Corpus Christi Bay.

More than 30 people, during a heated public hearing Thursday, weighed in on a proposed marine desalination facility that, if permitted by the state, would discharge 38.5 million gallons of treated wastewater into the Corpus Christi Ship Channel per day.

The Texas Commission on Environmental Quality, at the request of state Rep. Abel Herrero, D-Robstown, hosted the three-hour hearing to garner public comments to consider when determining whether to renew a wastewater discharge permit for Corpus Christi Polymers, a plastics plant being built on the Joe Fulton International Trade Corridor.

Attendees filled nearly every seat in a hall at the Holiday Inn Corpus Christi Airport & Convention Center, some displaying signs voicing opposition to desalination near the bay. The majority of speakers during the formal comment period, citing environmental concerns, asked TCEQ to deny the renewal of the permit — one of two needed to operate a desalination facility.

Sylvia Salyer was among the critics and became emotional as she spoke, recalling how she had frequented North Beach as a child. The Corpus Christi native worries that further industrial buildout around the bay could harm the environment.

“I just want my kids to be able to swim there like I did,” Salyer, 53, told the Caller-Times after she spoke during the comment period. “I am also worried about the oysters and the wildlife.”

TCEQ is considering renewal because it issued permits to the plant’s previous owner, M&G USA Corp., which filed for bankruptcy in the fall of 2017. CCP obtained the permits, which must be considered for renewal every five years, after acquiring the incomplete facility.

At least five speakers voiced support for renewing the permit, including representatives from Workforce Solutions of the Coastal Bend and Corpus Christi Water, the city’s water department. They commended CCP and the company’s stated plans to bring 250 full-time jobs and about 2,400 temporary, construction-related jobs to the area.

“(CCP) take their responsibilities seriously,” said Bob Paulison, executive director of the Coastal Bend Industry Association, during the comment period. “I have every belief that they will comply completely with the permit.”

The plant will be capable of producing a form of polymer used in the production of plastic bottles or containers for food packaging and beverages, and material used to make polyester fibers for clothing, bed sheets, curtains and bedspreads. Last year, CCP announced the facility would begin operations in 2025.

The hearing comes as five different sites near Corpus Christi Bay are being considered for the costly desalination facilities — any of which would be the first of their scope and size in Texas. In addition to CCP's site, both the Port of Corpus Christi and the city of Corpus Christi are eyeing two different locations.

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