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Texas Plastics Company Fails to Accurately Monitor Toxicity of Discharge in Lavaca Bay

65+ groups urge TCEQ to change how Formosa Plastic is allowed to monitor toxicity in their discharge

Research shows a ‘long-term decline of ecosystem health in Lavaca Bay

For Immediate Release, March 20, 2024

AUSTIN, Texas — Today, 65 organizations called on the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ) to update how Formosa Plastics monitors the toxicity of their discharge into Lavaca Bay, in accordance with recommendations from a study by the Harte Research Institute at Texas A&M University-Corpus Christi (HRI). 

For 30 years, TCEQ has required Formosa Plastics to report on various toxic chemicals in this discharge. But according to the study, the monitoring used methods that weren’t sensitive enough to determine the effects of Formosa’s discharge into the bay. According to the letter, the HRI data reveals a “long-term decline of ecosystem health in Lavaca Bay” and urges the agency to meet with the HRI researcher and report author Paul Montagna.

“The lack of sensitivity in testing for toxic chemicals has allowed one of the world’s largest petrochemical companies to get away with destroying fisheries, ecosystems, livelihoods, and human health,” said Diane Wilson, executive director of San Antonio Bay Estuarine Waterkeeper. “At the minimum, they should be using the best methods that NOAA requires for understanding potential harm to our oceans.”

Formosa’s Point Comfort plant converts methane gas to polyethylene and polypropylene pellets (also known as ‘nurdles’), which is the first step in the manufacture of nearly all plastic products. I​​n December 2019, Wilson won a landmark case against Formosa Plastics for the illegal dumping of toxic plastic waste into Lavaca Bay. The $50 million settlement is the largest award in a citizen suit against an industrial polluter in the history of the U.S. Clean Water Act. 

As a part of the settlement, Formosa Plastics agreed to reach “zero-discharge” of plastic waste from its Point Comfort factory. However, as of March 15, the company has reported 590 violations after the settlement and have paid over $15.9 million in additional fees. These fees were required by Waterkeeper’s settlement and are used for local environmental projects

TCEQ recently issued a draft water use permit to the Lavaca Navidad River Authority (LNRA) to construct an off-channel reservoir on the property of Formosa’s Point Comfort plant. The permit would facilitate a future expansion at the facility and allow the LNRA to divert up to 96,022 acre-feet of water from the Lavaca River every year—the equivalent to more than 31 billion gallons of freshwater removed from the river system.

A new report from the Environmental Integrity Project shows that a booming petrochemical buildout on the Texas Gulf Coast has drawn billions of dollars in public subsidies from state tax abatement programs despite regular violations of pollution permits.


Dan Lê,

Erika Seiber,