The Beaumont Industrial Complex (BIC) is an 800-acre area located along the Neches River in the heart of a bio-diverse zone in southeast Texas. Their industrial facilities along with LI’s operations occupy around 300 acres. The marshy area provides the perfect habitat for a wide variety of wildlife that call the BIC home. Environmental Manager, Derek Eades explains how local LI employees are proud to do their share to maintain this ecosystem for the benefit of the wildlife while ensuring the safety of the site.
Although the Neches has become partly industrialized, it still has vast tracts of undeveloped land that provide ideal habitat to many species of reptiles and mammals with alligators, snakes, turtles, whitetail deer, wild hogs, coyotes, bobcats, grey fox, rabbits, squirrels, raccoons, opossums, mink and otters seen regularly at the Beaumont site. While these animals are enjoyable to watch, some can cause havoc and safety concerns with modern industrial operations.
(Pictured: Grey Fox spotted on site!)
Watch out for that gator!
With more than 100 acres of ponds, canals and marshes, the site has to deal with a healthy alligator population especially in the spring and summer months. At any one time, there will be on average 40 different sized gators on the site. Most do not pose a problem but during the spring the large gators can be dangerous as they stake out territories for mating and raising young.
Since LI is responsible for the BIC wastewater and storm water discharges, our operators have to monitor the water and collect samples continually. Typically they work alone in remote locations where these large gators pose a danger. No one has ever been injured by gators at the site and most of the staff has grown up in the area so are used to them. That said, wild animals are unpredictable so we always need to be safety conscious.
Local partner lends an experienced hand
Each year LI works with Gator County, an alligator rescue organization, to remove five or six large gators (8 feet or longer). Gator County has captured thousands of nuisance alligators from all over the southern United States and LI relies on their expertise to prevent injuries to the alligators and to our staff. Of the 40 or so gators at Beaumont, most are less than 5 feet and, like most wild animals, try to avoid contact with humans. Concerns arise if someone tries to feed them and they start to associate humans with food. We have a strict policy not to feed the alligators to avoid this.
(Pictured: An alligator over 8 feet long, removed from site by Gator County.)
Booming hog population poses threat
But gators are not the only threat at Beaumont, with limited hunting on the lands surrounding the complex, the hog population is booming. Bobcats, coyotes, and gators will eat the smaller pigs but once they get to a 100lbs or more they have no natural enemies. The hogs can be very destructive to roads, levees, ditches, pipelines, etc.
Older animals, especially boars and large sows with piglets can be very aggressive toward people and can cause serious injuries with their razor-sharp tusks. The site currently uses air horns and other sound devices to try to drive the hogs off the site, but activity continues and trapping in the future will probably be required.
Raccoons and the $1m question!
With gators, hogs, bobcats, and coyotes roaming the site, who would think that raccoons pose the largest threat to the profitability and health of the Company? We have a saying: “When is a raccoon worth a million dollars?” And the answer: “When it climbs into one of our electrical substations and blows power to the plants!” This has happened at least three times in the last three years – and once more as a result of squirrels. These outages can last from several hours to multiple days and are costly in terms of damaged equipment and lost productivity. Unfortunately for the raccoon, this is always fatal.
To help prevent these incidents, the site developed a multi-phase approach.
Phase one involved placing tin shields on all the electric poles to help prevent animals from climbing up the poles and getting near transformers; this has been completed.
Phase two is ongoing and involves trapping the raccoons around the plant to maintain lower populations. Since LI shutdown the Acrylonitrile unit the abandoned equipment has become a ready-made condo for the raccoons in the middle of the plant. It is not uncommon to look out over the distillation towers at dark and see three or four raccoon heads sticking out of an open manway.
Phase three is to accelerate our 5S program and remove much of this disused equipment.
About the Author
Derek Eades has been the site Environmental Manager for almost two years. He conducts the trapping operation at the site and coordinates gator relocation along with others in the SHE team. He retired from the Texas Environmental Agency with 25 years of service prior to joining LI