Winnsboro Fertilizer Plant Forced to Temporarily Suspend Operations

Sigma Operations Suspended

By Chuck Roy

The Sigma plant has been ordered to temporarily stop all operations until they can prove they’re not polluting the town of Winnsboro. The stench produced by Sigma’s processing operations is appalling to many city residents and reprehensible to businesses and visitors.

Sigma Partners, LLC, a Winnsboro based fertilizer processing facility, has accepted an agreement ahead of Wednesday’s hearing in the Wood County District Court. Both sides reached a mutual agreement for a temporary injunction that orders the plant to cease all operations until they are in compliance with the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality, applicable state laws, TCEQ covenants, and Winnsboro city ordinances. No estimate is available at this time as to a specific date to re-open.

TCEQ documents shows at least 18 violation notices involving the plant, along with more than a dozen of violations issued local law enforcement and code enforcement officers for the City of Winnsboro.

The temporary injunction was agreed to by both parties and approved by the court, states: “The purpose of a temporary injunction is to preserve the status quo pending a trial on the merits. The status quo to be maintained in this matter is that which was in existence prior to Defendants’ operations that are alleged to exceed permitted levels of emissions and permitted operational parameters.”

The agreement also prohibits the release of any smoke plumes, emissions of any particulate matter, stench, and liquids that could hold the potential for ground contamination.

Residents living near the Sigma Fertilizer plant on All Star Road just east of the downtown Winnsboro area say since the plant started operating in June of last year, and almost immediately their health and quality of life have suffered.

 “I’ve been here 15 years as Winnsboro has been trying to become a city for everyone,” said Jo Porterfield, who lives just two miles from the plant. “And this Sigma stink will kill us. Literally.”

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

Some of the residents who were to attend Wednesday’s hearing said, “I can’t even sit on my patio because the smell is so strong that it makes me so sick.” Said a woman who lives near the plant. “I can’t even enjoy being outside anymore.”

Along with an awful smell, residents said they’ve also experienced health effects like breathing problems and frequent infections. Many believe their illness and discomfort are consequential to the plant’s effluents.

“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 three dozen litigants in a lawsuit against the fertilizer plant.

“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 going to be installed – 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. Sigma appears to have turned a deaf ear to the complaints of residents, employees, and passersbys.

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.”

The next court hearing is set for Aug. 23 to evaluate compliance with the temporary injunction. A jury trial was also set for February 13-17, 2023.

For the residents of Winnsboro, the “fix” cannot come soon enough. The odor is outrageous and creates a pall over the otherwise art-centric community. Outdoors activities and local businesses are, and have been, adversely affected by the “stink.”