Under a Carbon Black Sky: Borger Residents Say Local Plant Emissions are Worrisome
The residents of Borger, Texas are no stranger to the tendrils of smoke that trace the wide open Texas sky. The source is the carbon black plant, which has long been an economic cornerstone for the little town nestled in the stark scrubland.
The Tokai Carbon plant is one of three manufacturing locations in the United States. The carbon black products of Tokai are "utilized in tires, manufactured rubber goods, plastics, coatings, inks and toners", as proudly stated on the company website.
But in past year, the life long residents who have always lived under a sky etched with carbon black have become increasingly concerned..
The complaints heard are nearly uniform in describing the development of a constant brown hazy smog that permeates the city of Borger.
Other complaints describe how the smoke itself had changed, becoming thicker and heavier. In a series of photos provided by a resident employed at a nearby factory, the smoke is a thick and viscous spread visible in both daylight and at night.
"We went out of town, and when we came back there was a huge cloud of black smoke covering the neighborhoods of Fairlanes, Buenavista, Fairlanes 2," said the resident, who asked to be identified only as Billy Ray.
"It was so, so bad."
But the key question remains: are the emissions indeed in violation of code?
Is there indeed a substantiated concern with a worsening air quality and pollution?
Regulations and Regulating Agencies
Tokai is ruled by specific guidelines as set forth by the Texas Administrative Code.
The state agency that oversees the compliance of the plant with these legal guidelines is the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality. By navigating the TCEQ website and locating the Tokai Carbon Black plant in Borger, Texas there are several key pieces of information that are accessible to the public.
As shown on the central registry, the total air quality complaints submitted annually are as follows (screenshot available at this link):
- 2023 - 24 complaints
- 2022 - 22 complaints
- 2019 - 1 complaint
- 2014 - 1 complaint
- 2013 - 1 complaint
- 2012 - 3 complaints
- 2011 - 1 complaint
- 2010 - 2 complaint
- 2009 - 1 complaint
- 2003 - 1 complaint
Also available through the TCEQ website are detailed emission event reports. Note: this should not be considered a typical emission event report, please visit the central registry to inspect the available reports in order to see the full scope of what these reports detail.
Additionally, there is also an executive summary related to a 2020 finding by the commission.
At the time of this writing, outreach has been made to visit with officials from both Tokai and TCEQ for further insight into these numbers and the actual weight held by these public reports. The current understanding by this author is that each time a regulating agency has come out and tested the emissions, the results have been below the limit.
An upcoming meeting has been scheduled for May 23rd at the Dome in Borger from noon to 1pm.
You can view a recording of the previous meeting between local leaders and plant management here
The Tokai website prominently displays the company's commitment to sustainability and environmental responsibility. In a featured section of the website's homepage, the following is stated:
Tokai Carbon CB Ltd.'s sustainable carbon blacks come with a stamp of approval.
The Fort Worth-based carbon black maker said May 12 that its Borger, Texas, plant has received certification for achieving the International Sustainability and Carbon Certification Plus standard. This designation allows Tokai to certify that its circular or bio-based carbon blacks produced at the Borger facility as sustainable.
This is an initial look at the issue at hand. Further coverage will be provided as information is gathered from official representatives.