You’ll see a lot in the 416 miles between the source of the Neches River and the Gulf of Mexico, where it meets the sea.

Its upper reaches are enveloped by the Big Thicket National Reserve – a vast area of forest in South East Texas which is home to an incredible array of wildlife and natural habitats. It’s even used as drinking water for cities and towns along its banks, including Beaumont, while fishing and crabbing are also major recreational pastimes on it. The Neches really is the lifeblood of so much activity.

As it reaches our Beaumont site, the river opens up to reveal its industrial neighbours, with chemical plants dotting the banks for over 30 miles.

Our environmental team here, led by Environmental Manager, Derek Eades, explains how we’re a driving force behind protecting this priceless waterway for all who depend on it.

Pictured: the view from Beaumont across the Neches.

Derek works with dedicated Water Quality Environmental Specialist, Kendra Derrick, and two Environmental Rovers keeping their eyes on our operations, Dan Gracedel and Sterlynn Cook.

It goes hand in hand with our core KAITEKI belief of caring for people and planet, he says, as he talks about the huge investments we’ve made in improving our and our neighbours’ relationship with the Neches.

“We discharge process, utility and storm water into the river under a permit issued by the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality,” he begins.

“To keep the impact of this down to an absolute minimum, we have a series of water system analysers measuring pH, total organic compounds, temperature and ammonia. Over the last few years, we’ve been replacing these analysers with the latest systems to give us a much better picture of our water discharge and help us spot any issues sooner.

“If any issues do crop up, the Beaumont Industrial Complex (BIC) has four diversion tanks which can handle up to 2.5 million gallons of water. Should any problems occur, water can be diverted into there instead of the river. It can then be treated or reprocessed.”

For Dan and Sterlynn, keeping a close eye on our water is part of what they do every day. For Dan, this interest all started back when he was a child:

“As a kid in the 1970s, I can remember how polluted the river was. Today, I love to fish, crab and shrimp in both the Neches River and further downstream in Sabine Lake. I’m proud of the way we manage our discharge into the river to help protect it, and I enjoy my job of making sure my children and grandchildren will be able to enjoy the outdoor activities that a clean and beautiful river provide.”

Pictured: testing the water… a big part of the Environmental Team’s job at Beaumont.

Dan and Sterlynn also manage our series of ponds used as a settling basin for the waste water. Over the years, these ponds areas have become a thriving hub of wild activity, home to numerous amphibians and reptiles (especially alligators!), rabbits, hogs, deer, coyotes, otters and over a hundred species of birds.

It’s a huge source of pride for the whole team that we can combine protecting the Neches with providing a home for the wildlife drawn to it.

Pictured: the site’s marsh area, a perfect habitat for more than you may think!

Taking the lead to improve the BIC

We manage the dock on the Neches River where all loading and unloading of ships and barges for the BIC happens. Every year, we’re moving around 2.5 billion lbs of products through this area.

Through effective management of this loading/unloading process, there hasn’t been a single loss-of-containment event at the docks for over 7 years. We work closely with the US Coast Guard to make sure these standards are kept up.

As well as the docks, we’re in close contact with all of our fellow BIC tenants to help protect the Neches. A quarterly meeting led by Kendra Derrick looks at any issues that need solving and reviews pending projects and initiatives.

Pictured: part of the dock area.

One of this year’s goals is to start a new clean waters project. This will look at eliminating any risk of unwanted items leaving the facility through waste water, by painting and labelling all stormwater drains to prevent hazards which could potentially escape through stormwater runoff if not properly managed.

Kendra says, “We all have a responsibility to protect the environment around our site and I’m proud to be a team player in that effort. Over the last 7 years, we’ve collaboratively created a robust water quality monitoring program that has proven our position as an eco-friendly stakeholder in the Neches River.”