Belton Lake Marina Under Investigation after Reports of Illegal Dumping and Safety Violations
State and county officials are investigating possible environmental and safety violations at the Pier 36 Marina near Cedar Ridge Park after the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality received two anonymous complaints on June 21 alleging that residents of the marina were dumping untreated sewage into the water because the on-site septic system was inoperable, that fuel was leaking into the lake, and that garbage was strewn around the marina.
An aerial photo taken on June 18 by Billy Wren, a local boater and surfer and administrator of a local Lake Belton Facebook fan page, appeared to confirm these suspicions. The photo, which Wren took while surveying the flooding in order to help boaters looking for ways of accessing the water, was immediately shared by hundreds of concerned users.
A biologist with the Texas Commission and officials with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and the Texas Department of Parks and Wildlife were at the marina Tuesday inspecting the conditions and collecting samples. The Commission will conduct water quality tests to determine whether raw sewage is present in the vicinity of the marina, while the Bell County Public Health District will investigate the fuel leak complaints.
Corps of Engineers spokesperson Ronnie Bruggman said Tuesday that a ranger was sent to inspect the marina Monday after the Corps received calls from concerned citizens. Bruggman stated that there were no obvious signs of sewage, but testing would still be necessary to verify that the water is safe. Further, a houseboat was found to be leaking small amounts of fuel, and an order was issued to repair it, but Bruggman insisted that rumors of hazardous chemicals and fuel leaking from flooded storage buildings were determined to be false.
We spoke with Jeff Lagow, owner of the Pier 36 marina, on Tuesday, who denied allegations that the marina's gas pump was leaking or that the waste water removal system was inoperable or leaking. “We shut the gas tank down at night, so when the last storm came through, it was closed," said Lagow. "That thing's been shut off since the last storm came through and we lost the use of the tank.”
The fact that they floated is proof that they’re sealed.
“There’s no way for this sewer system to function if it’s broken,” he added. “If it’s broken, the waste water won’t come out of the boat tank because you create a vacuum to get it out. So it has to be working properly or you don’t get anything.”
When we asked Lagow about Wren's photo, he said: “The photo just shows the parking lot with those trashcans. They just were floating over there by the parking lot where the trash is always picked up by the trash company. The fact that they floated is proof that they’re sealed. So, what trash was in there is still in there.”
Lagow also addressed a certified letter he recently received from 20 residents, expressing concerns about conditions at the marina. “Nobody has come to the office,” he said. “No one’s come to the office and asked us to do anything or said anything, which I don’t really understand. If a tenant has a complaint, if they’ll come tell us, we have 5 or 6 people on full time. We’ll send them down and take care of it.”
Billy Wren, administrator of the Lake Belton Facebook page, says residents have told him that they don’t feel comfortable reporting issues to the marina office because they fear being harassed or forced to leave. He also asserted that a septic line leaked after a walkway collapsed, which a marina employee confirmed to the Temple Daily Telegram Tuesday.
Lagow sent a notice to marina residents Monday about a meeting scheduled for Wednesday, July 1 at the Hilton Garden Inn in Temple. The notice lists several concerns raised by tenants in their certified letter, including matters of security and structural integrity and the employment of a registered sex offender who has since been released.