Austin authorizes short-term contracts to ensure trash, recycling will continue to be collected from city facilities

KVUE News Austin
By Bryce Newberry
Original article here

AUSTIN, Texas — On Saturday, Feb. 22, city leaders spent nearly an hour trying to figure out what to do with all the trash from city facilities. Now, two short-term contracts have been authorized to ensure that trash and recycling will continue to be collected from all Austin facilities.

At a city council meeting held on Feb. 20, the council was asked to approve an emergency contract extension with Waste Management. But that would mean trash would go to the Austin Community Landfill in northeast Austin, which the council hasn’t supported for years.

“The people who don’t have the opportunity to live in the highest opportunity parts of town are still having to deal with the whole city’s trash,” said Councilmember Natasha Harper-Madison, who represents the district where the landfill is located. “I know we have to put our trash somewhere, but we can do it in a way that doesn’t compromise people’s health and wellness and quality of life.”

The emergency contract was proposed by city staff for up to one year because the City’s current contract expires on Feb. 28. On the same day the contract was set to expire, the City of Austin authorized two short-term contracts that will ensure that trash and recycling will continue to be collected from all City of Austin facilities until a new long-term contract can be authorized by Council, KVUE’s Bryce Newberry confirmed.

Under the short-term contracts, trash and recycling will not go to the controversial Austin Community Landfill. Under the short-term contract with Texas Disposal Systems, waste will go to their landfill in Creedmoore, Texas. Under the contract with Central Waste and Recycling, waste will go to the same landfill in Creedmore or to the Williamson County Landfill in Hutto, Texas.

Both contracts start on Feb. 28 and will continue on a month-to-month basis for up to six months. The City will end the contracts once the city council starts a new long-term contract.

Several people previously spoke out against a contract extension with the Austin Community Landfill, which they claim has been a bad neighbor.

“We urge you to stand with us and forbid any City of Austin facility discards from going to this problem landfill,” said Robin Schneider of Texas Campaign for the Environment. “We want to make it clear that this city does not do business with bad actors.”

Pilots, activists urge Austin council to reject landfill expansion near airport

Austin American-Statesman
By Heather Osbourne

Amber England, an activist with Texas Campaign for the Environment, holds up a photo of turkey vultures eating at a landfill near Austin-Bergstrom International Airport. Nick Wagner, Austin American-Statesman

Pilots and environmental advocates on Thursday urged Austin city leaders to reject the expansion of a landfill near Austin-Bergstrom International Airport, fearing an increased danger of jets colliding with vultures and other birds drawn to the site.

Jeffrey Jacoby, deputy director for Texas Campaign for the Environment, was one of a handful who appeared before the Austin City Council, saying the proposed expansion would “put in danger the flying public for the next 13 years.”

Jacoby was referring to estimates that the expansion of the landfill, which is less than a mile south of the airport’s west runway, would increase its lifespan by about 13 years. An official hearing regarding the expansion will be held at City Hall on March 26.

While the dump only accepts unwanted construction materials, Jacoby and other environmental advocates believe operators allow decaying organic waste to slip through its gates.

“It’s highly doubtful you would have turkey vultures frequenting the dump if there was not rotting waste,” Jacoby said.

Jacoby presented photos taken at the landfill over the past few weeks, which show several turkey vultures perched on top of the trash. Other photos show large birds flying near passenger planes.

Several council members on Thursday requested the issues raised by the pilots and activists be placed on the agenda for the Airport Advisory Commission’s next meeting.

Austin-Bergstrom is no stranger to bird strikes, but officials say no data directly links them to the nearby landfill. In December, the airport reported a total of 175 bird strikes had occurred within a 5-mile radius of the airport in 2019, about the same number as the year before.

The airport has its own wildlife management team, which documents bird sightings and strikes near the runways. The team also works to remove carcasses from nearby roads and at the landfill to reduce food available for those larger birds.

Mandy McClendon, communications manager for the airport, said airport officials already told the council that they have no objection to the expansion of the landfill and do not believe it would increase the risk of strikes.

However, some pilots who use the airport daily disagree. Jose Corona, owner of Austin Helicopter Tours and one of two pilots to speak against the landfill Thursday, told the council that bird sightings at Austin-Bergstrom are the worst he has seen at any airport in the past 20 years.

“My concern is that eventually they will take down an aircraft,” Corona said. “I’m hoping the city reconsiders that expansion.”

Members representing Texas Campaign for the Environment stand in support of a speaker Thursday at an Austin City Council meeting, where pilots and environmental activists raised their concerns about a pending expansion of a landfill just 3,250 feet from runways at Austin-Bergstrom International Airport. Nick Wagner, Austin American-Statesman

Opponents of Austin trash transfer station take their case to the state

Austin Monitor
By Mose Buchele
Original article here

The Texas Commission on Environmental Quality held a public hearing Thursday night on a proposal to build a garbage transfer station in North Austin. The project is facing growing opposition from public officials, neighbors and environmental groups.

The Austin Community Landfill off U.S. Highway 290 is filling up fast. According to its owner, Waste Management, the landfill will be too full to store garbage in about five years, so it wants to build a way station to bring in garbage from local customers and haul it out to other landfills.

“The need to take out the trash is going to continue, and this transfer station will provide a viable solution for continued waste disposal,” the company said in a media statement on the project.

Residents who live nearby say that will worsen problems they’re already having with the landfill; for years, they have complained of foul smells, rodents and heavy traffic.

But as the landfill has grown, so has the community around it.

“Forty years ago, this landfill was not surrounded by homes on every point of the compass,” state Rep. Celia Israel, who represents the area in the Texas House, told KUT. “We’ve been dealing with horrible fumes. Many of us, on many nights, cannot sit outside.”

Environmental groups have also entered the debate, arguing that the transfer station runs counter to Austin’s goal of becoming a zero-waste city.

“Building out even more of this trash infrastructure, especially when you’re talking about a company that has not shown any interest in contributing positively to our zero-waste goals, is not in the best interest of Austin,” Jeff Jacoby, deputy director of Texas Campaign for the Environment, said.

To build the way station, Waste Management needs to get permits from the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality.

This story was produced as part of the Austin Monitor’s reporting partnership with KUT. Photos by Gabriel C. Pérez/KUT.

Plan de empresa de recolección de basura genera oposición en este de Austin

Telemundo Austin
By Olivia Martinez
Artículo original aquí

El plan de Waste Management, la compañía de recolección de basura de transformar un basurero del este de Austin en una planta de transferencia de desechos está generado oposición de vecinos, líderes locales y ambientalistas.

La noche del jueves, La Comisión para la Calidad Ambiental de Texas junto con a la empresa solicitante realizaron una audiencia pública en la primaria Bluebonnet Trail para responder las inquietudes del público.

La junta contó con la participación de la legisladora estatal Celia Israel, quien representa a la zona.

“Mis vecinos que yo represento a ellos en el Capitolio quieren que se sigan con los planes que tenemos que van a cerrar en cinco años, punto y final”, dijo Israel quien vive a menos de una milla del vertedero de la calle Giles y la 290. “El olor del aire es muy feo hay noches que no se puede estar afuera cocinando o trabajando afuera”.

Muchos de los vecinos expresaron su oposición a la solicitud presentada por Waste Management el 27 de septiembre del año pasado a TCEQ para convertir el basurero en una planta para almacenar, procesar y transferir mil camionadas de residuos por día. La planta recibiría más de 669,000 toneladas de residuos cada año.

Originalmente, el vertedero debía cerrar en cinco años y varios grupos ambientalistas adviertieron sobre los efectos de la continuación de las operaciones en la población del sector.

“Si se les permite construir esta estación de basura, sus operaciones en este vecindario podrían continuar indefinidamente en el futuro”, dijo Jeffrey Jacoby, representante de Texas para el Medio Ambiente.

Durante la reunión, los funcionarios de la empresa de recolección de basura dijeron tener una solución para controlar las emanaciones.

“El recinto estará cerrado y dentro de un edificio y ése es un tipo de mitigación del olor. Es el paso número uno. La descarga, procesamiento y carga de los residuos en los vehículos se llevará a cabo en interiores”, dijo Scott Graves, representante de Geosyntec, compañía que colaboró en la presentación de la solicitud de Waste Management.

Un funcionario de TCEQ dijo que la agencia toma en cuenta factores como el polvo, olor, potencial de plagas, basura arrastrada por el viento, protección del agua superficial y control de acceso al considerar los permisos.

A raíz de la controversia, la comisión informó que extenderá el periodo para recibir las inquietudes de la población y se desconoce cuánto tardarán en tomar la decisión.