Preserving the Environment

Meet the 70-Year-Old Lone Star Who Polices Fracking Waste

July 9, 2014
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Meet the 70-Year-Old Lone Star Who Polices Fracking Waste
Chris Hondros/Getty Images
Deputy Sheriff Hector Zertuche doesn't let big oil and gas get away with illegal dumping.

As the oil and natural gas industries continue to boom in Texas, someone needs to fight on the side of the environment — especially when these industries (intentionally or not) cause big, messy spills.

The unlikely green crusader in resource-rich Jim Wells county? Seventy-year-old deputy sheriff Hector Zertuche, who’s patroling against the illegal dumping of fracking waste, Inside Climate News reports.

We’ve already mentioned that fracking, which has caused drilling to spike across the country, is a health and environmental nightmare. This controversial process uses a highly pressurized mix of water, chemicals and sand to release gas and oil from rock formations — but in the process, it also creates millions of barrels of toxic waste a day. Even scarier, there’s really no good way of getting rid of this sludge: the corrosive and chemically-laden byproduct, if disposed of “correctly,” can either go into underground wells, treatment plants or other means. Unfortunately, much too often, the waste water gets spilled onto the open road.

MORE: Watch How This Little Town Stood Up Against a Gas Giant

And that’s where Zertuche comes in.

As Inside Climate News puts it, because Texas’ environmental agencies aren’t very effective at policing spills, it falls on Zertuche’s lone shoulders to make sure these offenders don’t get away with it.

This year alone, the septuagenarian has reportedly taken about a dozen violators to court for reasons such as transporting waste without a permit, illegal dumping on the roads or carrying waste in an unmarked truck. Drivers are slapped with a $1,000 fine and 10 days in jail per violation. In 2013, he allegedly cited up to 10 trucks per day for a variety of violations.

Pretty incredible for someone who’s well past retirement age. But as he told the publication, it’s all in a day’s work.

“I want to make a difference for the people who live here,” Zertuche said. “If I can make this a better place for people to live, then I have done my job.”

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