Leaking landfills fuel contamination concerns across state

Fox News 34 Lubbock
Bailey Miller
Original story here

A report by the Texas Campaign for the Environment says 40 percent of the nearly 200 active landfills in Texas are leaking toxins, and one of Lubbock’s two landfills is on the list. The 2013 report uses Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ) data from 2012.


“Well if residents are on well water, it would probably be a good idea to get your well water tested,” Robin Schneider, Executive Director of the Texas Campaign for the Environment, said. “It’s hard to know how these plumes of toxins move underground.”

According to the report, the city’s landfill in the 8400 block of North Avenue P is leaking heavy metals, as well as some volatile organic compounds.

“It’s been determined that the contamination is directly related to an interface of landfill gas with the groundwater,” Jeff Bertl, with the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality, said. “Therefore, the corrective action that was put in place was to withdraw the landfill gas so it would not have that interaction with the groundwater.”

He said the TCEQ has done what it can to minimize the risk posed to residents.

“The grading of the groundwater has been determined to be in a northeast direction, which is away from the city of Lubbock,” Bertl said. “So, as far as any contamination, if it were to get off site, it would not come towards the city of Lubbock.”

Schneider said the Texas Campaign for the Environment is working to reduce the toxins being put into the landfills to reduce potential contamination in the long run.

“The state of Texas has passed laws to require that if a company is selling computers and televisions, they have to set up recycling programs,” Schneider said. “We are working to get the battery makers to do the same thing.”

She said as consumers, we can utilize producer take-back programs at places like Best Buy and Goodwill, which take electronics and rechargeable batteries, which can help keep those products out of the landfills.

For more information on household hazardous waste products, as well as how to properly dispose of them, click here.

To see the entire Texas Campaign for the Environment report “Texas Leaking Landfills List 2013” click here.

At Least 40% of Active Texas Landfills are Leaking Toxins

grview-36302-1Public News Service – TX
John Michaelson

AUSTIN, Texas – As the battle over the site of a proposed landfill in central Texas continues, a new analysis is raising concerns statewide. The study finds that 40 percent of active landfills in the state that monitor their impact on groundwater are leaking toxins, and James Abshier, founder of a group called Environmental Protection in the Interest of Caldwell County, says it’s likely more.

“That’s just landfills that have measurement devices,” he points out. “Active, running landfills. That’s not closed landfills and it’s just the ones where the contamination has reached the sensors.”

The new data on contamination is from Texas Campaign for the Environment, and it comes as Caldwell County considers a plan for a new landfill that would take in 25 million tons of trash and operate for 40 years. The company proposing the landfill wants it located just off Texas State Highway 130, which Abshier and others have been fighting against because, he says, the land in the area is unstable and three major aquifers run through or nearby.

“One is the Carrizo-Wilcox, which is a major aquifer for over 12 million people,” he says. “And the landfill is going to be right over the Leona. The Leona is an aquifer that feeds the Carrizo-Wilcox, so there’s definitely a chance of contamination into the water system.”

The Caldwell County Board of Commissioners this past week approved an ordinance that Abshier hopes will block the development, but he also explains that there could be a loophole.

“It allegedly removes the possibility of having the site at the 130 and 183 intersection,” he says. “Now there’s been some differences of opinion on that, and the company that wants to put the landfill at 130 Environmental Park thinks that they can be grandfathered in.”

The proposal comes from Georgia-based Green Group Holdings, which runs landfills in a handful of states and is also currently pursuing a site about 45 minutes northwest of Houston in Waller County.

Caldwell County residents hope to use landfill ban to stop proposed facility

Austin American Statesman
Farzad Mashood

LOCKHART — Caldwell officials passed a countywide ban on landfills Monday, though they acknowledged the measure likely comes too late to block the plans already in the works for a 250-acre landfill five miles north of Lockhart.

“The county is not going to use the ordinance to fight the landfill*. The county is outfitting itself so we don’t have to do this again,” said Commissioner Joe Roland, whose precinct includes the proposed landfill site near Texas 130 and FM 1185, owned by Green Group Holdings. He suggested the law to block any future landfills except on an 18-acre former gravel pit south of Lockhart.

Still, some residents opposed to the Green Group Holdings’ site hope to use this new law in the upcoming legal battle. Several dozen residents, many with signs declaring “Bump the Dump,” packed into the commissioners meeting room Monday morning, with standing room only by the time the public hearing began.

“I think this is the worst kind of economic development we can have,” Lockhart resident Leslie Banks said. “If you approve this ordinance today, 30 to 40 years from now … I don’t think anyone will look back and say, ‘gosh, I just wish we had built that dump.’”

After hearing from about 18 residents during an hour-long public hearing, all of whom said they supported the law and opposed the landfill, commissioners met briefly in a closed session before approving the law. Several representatives from Georgia-based Green Group Holdings attending the hearing, but did not address commissioners.

“We decided not to participate in the public hearing based on the fact that this ordinance does not apply to our facility because we have an application pending before the (Texas Commission on Environmental Quality),” David Green, a vice president with Green Group Holdings, told the American-Statesman.

The facility has begun filing permit applications with the environmental agency under the company name 130 Environmental Park LLC. With the permit process underway, the landfill is exempt from new laws prohibiting them, Green said. But the company has only filed two of the four parts of the permit application, so the process hasn’t begun making the facility not exempt from the county law, argued James Abshier, who chairs Environmental Protection in the Interest of Caldwell County, a local group organized to oppose the landfill.

“This is probably an issue for the courts to decide,” Abshier said.

Waller County, where Green Group Holdings is also trying to permit another controversial landfill called Pintail, passed a similar law, but commissioners voted to remove the restrictions on the Pintail site in February, the Houston Chronicle reported.

The company announced plans in September for the Caldwell County landfill, which would be built on a grassy cattle ranch where ducks swim in a nearby reservoir. The site, about 30 minutes from downtown Austin, would hold 25 million tons of trash, almost 200 times what the city of Austin’s trash trucks collected in 2012. Company president Ernest Kaufmann said the facility, estimated to cost $30 million to $35 million, is needed to serve the growing metro area. The site has little groundwater and deep clay soil, which provides a natural liner in addition to the thick plastic landfill liner that would be installed to keep contaminants from seeping into the ground, he said. The company also plans to design a landfill that exceeds the state requirements for groundwater monitoring and has extra drainage in the event of a large flood.

But Abshier, other local residents and the Texas Campaign for the Environment don’t think it’s a good site for the landfill. The prolific Carrizo-Wilcox Aquifer is just outside the proposed landfill’s footprint, and the liner to keep water from seeping into the ground won’t be thick enough, opponents said Monday. Trash-contaminated water seeping from the landfill then could flow from the primarily sand-based aquifer to the nearby Carrizo-Wilcox, Abshier said.

*Commissioner Roland says that he was misquoted and that Caldwell County does wish to use the new ordinance to prevent the proposed landfill from being built.

Dallas finally passes strict gas drilling rules after years of debate

CultureMap Dallas
Claire St. Amant

It’s been a long road for Dallas gas drilling opponents and proponents alike. The journey that began in 2007 reached a conclusion of sorts on December 11, when the Dallas City Council approved a new gas drilling ordinance that is among the strictest in the nation.

IMG_0905The new ordinance, which was proposed by the City Plan Commission, passed 9-6. The main issue at stake was the setback distance between drilling sites and homes and other protected properties like parks and schools.

The 2007 ordinance prescribed a 300-foot setback, but a gas drilling task force (appointed by then-mayor Dwaine Caraway) recommended a 1,000-foot distance. In September, the City Plan Commission recommended its own setback figure of 1,500 feet. This is in line with other cities in Dallas-Fort Worth. Flower Mound also has a 1,500-foot rule, while Denton sets the limit at 1,200 feet.

As you may recall, Trinity East Energy unsuccessfully tried to obtain gas drilling permits in August. Had they been approved, the permits would have paved the way for gas drilling and hydraulic fracturing in parklands and the floodplain — both of which are currently against city code. The permits appeared destined for approval, but a slew of vocal opponents swayed the City Plan Commission (and ultimately, the City Council) into an across-the-board denial. Public speaker lines frequently run out the door at City Council meetings in which gas drilling was discussed. (Photo by Claire St. Amant.)

The Texas Campaign for the Environment backed the ordinance, though spokesperson Zac Trahan says it’s not perfect. “We’d prefer to have a complete ban on drilling, or any industrial activity on parklands,” he says. The 1,500-foot setback effectively does that, though the council can allow drilling closer to protected spaces with a three-fourths approval vote.

Drilling proponents worry that the new ordinance will make any natural gas or hydraulic fracking activity impossible in Dallas County and have hinted at taking legal action. Interim director of sustainable development David Cossum says this new ordinance is now the law of land in Dallas “until someone wants to amend it again.”