Winnsboro fertilizer plant agrees to temporarily cease operations over pollution concerns

Judge grants temporary injunction against fertilizer plant
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Published: May. 11, 2022 at 7:05 PM CDT|Updated: May. 11, 2022 at 7:20 PM CDT
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QUITMAN, Texas (KLTV) - An East Texas fertilizer plant has agreed to temporarily cease operations until they can prove they’re not polluting the town of Winnsboro.

Residents living near the Sigma AgriScience Fertilizer plant on All Star Road say since the plant started operating in June of 2021, their health and quality of life have suffered.

A photo from a resident shows smoke pouring out of the fertilizer plant.
A photo from a resident shows smoke pouring out of the fertilizer plant.(Courtesy photo)

“I’ve been there 15 years and Winnsboro is trying to become a city for everyone,” said Jo Porterfield, who lives two miles from the plant. “And this will kill us. Literally.”

Porterfield is just one of about sixty people who showed up at the Wood County Courthouse in Quitman on Wednesday afternoon for a hearing involving the controversial fertilizer plant.

Some of the residents who attended Wednesday's hearing at the Wood County Courthouse.
Some of the residents who attended Wednesday's hearing at the Wood County Courthouse.(Blake Holland/KLTV)

“I can’t even sit on my patio because the smell is so strong that it makes me so sick,” said Wanda Williams, a woman who lives near the plant. “I can’t even enjoy being outside.”

Along with an awful smell, residents said they’ve also experienced health effects like breathing problems and frequent infections.

“What it seems like is as if somebody said ‘hold my beer, we’re going to put a fertilizer plant in,’” said David Dobbs, a Tyler attorney representing more than 30 litigants in a lawsuit against the plant.

Ahead of Wednesday’s hearing, both sides reached a mutual agreement for a temporary injunction that orders the plant to cease all operations until they’re in compliance with the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality, state laws, and Winnsboro city ordinances.

“They claim that there’s a fix that they’re going to put into place,” Dobbs said. “We’re not exactly sure when or where that’s gonna go in - but they can’t operate until they put the fix in, and we know that the fix works. What’s reprehensible about this is that they’ve known about this forever and they just continued to pollute.”

Dobbs said based off the plant’s previous actions, residents don’t have many reasons to be confident about this temporary agreement.

“I do not trust Sigma,” said Porterfield. “They have run when they’ve had an injunction against running, so I’m not really sure what they will do.”

The next court hearing is set for Aug. 23 with a jury trial set to happen in February of 2023.

Dobbs said that’s when they’ll, “find out what took place for this company to be able to come in and operate in Winnsboro like this, with absolutely no responsibility up to this point.”

TQEQ documents shows at least 18 violation notices involving the plant, along with multiple violations reportedly issued by the City of Winnsboro.

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