Huntsman showcases its wetlands during Earth Day celebration

In recognition of Earth Day, Huntsman Corporation hosted an environment and sustainability showcase Thursday, April 20 at its Environmental Education Center in Port Neches. The topic of discussion was the company’s 1,100 acres of man-made wetlands created to recycle the plant’s process wastewater into water that can be used as a habitat for area wildlife.

“We’ve had our wetlands and environmental education program since 1987,” said Chad Anderson, site director of Huntsman Port Neches Operations. “It does serve an industrial purpose here at the facility and that … is we process our process wastewater through a wastewater treatment facility and then it goes out into our wetlands. We polish the water before it enters the river. The water that enters the river is cleaner than you can pull out of the river in the first place.”

The wetlands have a bustling population of mottled ducks, deer, feral hogs, alligators, and many other species of birds and creatures.

“We have a thriving habitat here and it’s the exact same habitat that we have an industrial process running through it,” he said. “It just goes to show that we as an industry can co-exist as a good neighbor to our citizens as well as a good neighbor to the environment.”

The Huntsman wetlands not only serve as a habitat for wildlife, they also are utilized as a learning tool for area students and have been since 1995, according to Marty Briggs, environmental specialist at Hunstman PNO.

“We started out being involved with just their environmental science classes,” Briggs said. “Then we started bringing in biology and earth science classes. Now, we’ve got woodshop classes, welding classes, and art classes involved.”

To show their appreciation to Huntsman for allowing them to use the education center and wetlands for learning, 21-24 art students recently painted a mural at the education center. Around 15 drafting and workshop students designed and built the mural, which was unveiled April 20.

Brenda Duhon, assistant superintendent at PN-GISD, said the wetlands are a great teaching tool.

“I was surprised when we first came out here years ago that this was literally in my backyard,” Duhon said. “I didn’t even know about it and I’ve lived here forever. … Most of our kids, unless they camp, they’re not exposed to this type of environment. Activities like nesting boxes gives our students an opportunity to be a part of it and to develop more of an appreciation for it, if they get to see it, as opposed to reading it out of a text book.”

“All your migrating birds come down,” Briggs said. “We get at least a dozen different species of waterfowl and then we have all of our native waterbirds — all your egrets and herons. Down in our wetlands, because it’s a transition where the woods meets the marsh, every year when your songbirds start to migrate, those trees fill up.”

In addition, PN-G High School principal Dr. Scott Ryan is starting a birding club at the school that already has peeked the interest of 15 students, according to High School Curriculum Coordinator Jon Deckert.

“Dr. Ryan and Environmental Science teacher Caitlin Murphy both have a passion for birds,” Deckert said. “They’re trying to start the club to get kids interest in that. We’re going to build a course slowly through building the club and the class at the same time.”

The class will be offered in fall of 2017 and Murphy will be the teacher, he said.

In addition to allowing PN-GISD to use its wetlands as a learning environment for students, Huntsman also allows the Texas General Land Office to use the area for air boat training for its Oil Spill Response Division.

Huntsman also works with Ducks Unlimited and Delta Waterfowl Foundation in bird banding methods.

“We want people to know that these wetlands are available to them,” Briggs said.

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Photo by Dale Stagg - Huntman's 1,100-acre man-made wetland was created to recycle the plant's process wastewater into water that can be used as a habitat for area wildlife.