Dallas Meat Packing plant investigated after drone images reveal pollution

Dallas Meat Packing plant investigated after drone images reveal pollution

A good news drone story for a change. Showing once again just how useful simple platforms can be for aquiring imagery. Every environmental department really ought to have one.

A Dallas sUAS enthusiast testing his camera-equipped drone noticed something awry with the images he had taken. Speaking to sUAS News he said.

I was looking at images after the flight that showed a blood-red creek and was thinking, could this really be what I think it is?  Can you really do that, surely not.

An aptly named Exposure airframe was used.

Whatever it is, it was flat-out gross.  Then comes the question of who do I report this to that can find out what it is and where it is coming from. 

Search after search and even some phone calls and I am not finding anything on who to call until I found the Nation Response Center.  With their website saying that they are “the sole national point of contact for reporting all oil, chemical, radiological, biological and etiological discharges into the environment, anywhere in the United States and its territories” this sure seems like the correct place to start.

I tried to use their web reporting pages to report this, but there were question being asked that I just did not know, so I gave up and picked up the phone.  The Coast Guard staffed 800 number was answered immediately, and I explained to the officer what I had seen and how.  I asked if I had called the correct place, and was assured that I had.  The officer took my report and asked me quite a few questions.  I then asked what was going to happen from here, and I was told that the appropriate authorities, including the TCEQ (Texas Commision on Environment Quality) would be notified.  A local investigator was dispatched within 20 minutes and onsite within another 20.

Last Thursday the EPA, TCEQ, and Texas Parks and Wildlife executed a search warrant.

In light of the ongoing investigation the UAS pilot would rather not be named.

Texas Environmental Crimes Task Force has watched the plant for two months after they first received the information. Dallas County has also been working with federal and state investigators ever since the tip came in.

Health and Human Services chief Zach Thompson says that’s what has county, federal, and state investigators so concerned. “Any time there is some type of discharge into the Trinity River… especially from an environmental standpoint, this is a real concern.”

“I think they discovered a secondary pipe again is my understanding, so the question is who installed the pipe and why was it there.”

The task force is investigating if the pig blood came from a secondary pipe not connected with the waste water system.

Well done that UAS pilot, perhaps the Texas Environmental Crimes Task Force can take some training from him.

This story comes hard on the heels of Sea Shepherd and its Osprey sUAS used to track Japanese whaling operations. Unmanned aviation is making a positive environmental difference.

This would be a difficult sell for established military contractors. A niche that small business should be chasing? Not quite as sexy as citizen journalism the current big news UAS task.

This flight was undertaken completly within the law, below 400′ and visual line of sight. A simple point and shoot camera and $75 airframe are all that were needed.

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Gary Mortimer

Founder and Editor of sUAS News | Gary Mortimer has been a commercial balloon pilot for 25 years and also flies full-size helicopters. Prior to that, he made tea and coffee in air traffic control towers across the UK as a member of the Royal Air Force.