Landfill proposal heightens Texas’ water supply concerns – By Amsler & Barnett

Waller County site would put aquifers at risk of contamination
By John Amsler and Jeron Barnett

Texas’ water supply has been a hot topic of discussion in recent months.

Our state leaders continue to voice their concerns regarding the severe water crisis facing our state. The consensus is clear: There is an urgent need to find solutions to meet Texas’ growing demand for water.

As state lawmakers are working hard to address Texas’ water-supply issue, there is a potential risk to the water resources right in our own community: the proposed Pintail Landfill in Waller County, just west of Houston.

If this landfill is approved, it would have a detrimental impact on Waller County residents and thousands of others in the Gulf Coast area who rely on the drinking water from the underlying aquifers of the site.

It is no surprise that Texans produce a lot of garbage. Our state continues to grow and, in turn, produce an increasing amount of trash.

While there is certainly a need to build landfills to keep up with growing demand, any proposed location for a landfill must be carefully selected to protect the health of the region’s residents and the resources on which they rely.

The proposed Pintail Landfill is located on the recharge zone of the Chicot/Evangeline aquifers. For thousands of southeast Texas residents, these aquifers are their only source of water.

Research has shown that placing a landfill over an aquifer recharge zone (a land area in which water can infiltrate into an aquifer relatively easily), increases the risk of water contamination. Numerous experts have weighed in on the proposed Pintail Landfill, saying that the site is simply not suitable – and in fact one of the worst locations to build – given its unique geological, hydrogeological and hydrological characteristics. In short, the highly permeable sandy soil surrounding the site’s underlying aquifer recharge zone would spread contamination quickly.

Put simply, southeast Texas residents could end up drinking their own garbage. We cannot afford to risk contamination of the groundwater that we rely on daily for drinking, bathing, cleaning and more.

Landfill siting is an issue Texans across the state have been struggling with for years. In 2006, the state weighed in by prohibiting landfills over recharge zones of the Edward’s Aquifer near San Antonio due to the geological risks involved.

The Association of Texas Soil and Water Conservation Districts recently stated this issue should be of major concern to all Texans, citing the proposed landfill in Guadalupe County over the Carrizo-Wilcox Aquifer Recharge Zone. The association passed a resolution to seek legislation that would bar the construction of landfills over aquifer recharge zones because of the increased risk of contamination to major regional sources of water.

Thankfully, the proposed Pintail Landfill is far from a done deal. However, next week some members of the Waller County Commissioners’ Court may vote to amend or repeal a county ordinance that currently prevents the proposed landfill from moving forward. Amending or repealing the ordinance would put our region’s water supply at risk from the potentially devastating impacts of the landfill. We are opposed to weakening or repealing the ordinance in any way.

As we look to the future, we must ensure we are doing all we can to protect the health and well-being of our citizens. It’s time to step up and do our part to protect our state’s water supplies – first and foremost, by not voting to amend or repeal the current ordinance on Feb. 12.

 

Amsler and Barnett serve on the Waller County Commissioners’ Court, representing Precinct 1 and Precinct 3, respectively. Both are longtime county residents.

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