The New, Bigger, Badder, More Dangerous Pintail Landfill II
(Or How to Add Insult to Injury)
-October 5, 2016
It’s been 5 years, 3 months, 2 weeks, and 3 days, or a total of 1,936 days since the public citizens of Waller County found out about a potential 250 acre mega-landfill being proposed in Hempstead, Texas on June 18, 2011.
During that long period of time, in which there were many twists and turns, the citizens of this area banded together in an historic effort to eventually defeat the original proposed Pintail Landfill. That effort culminated with the Director of the Waste Permits Division of TCEQ sending a letter to the President of Green Group Holdings stating that “For the integrity of the Municipal Solid Waste landfill program” of TCEQ, the only reasonable course available was for TCEQ to return the application as deficient. Such was the magnitude of the mischaracterization of the site by the applicant, and proven by the efforts of CALH, the new leadership of Waller County, the City of Hempstead, and all of the experts and attorneys hired by all.
More than 1.8 million dollars was raised and spent by CALH alone in the effort. The sacrifices made by the community and tireless volunteers in time, effort and money truly changed people’s lives in ways that cannot ever be compensated for. A large portion of the citizenry put their lives on hold for more than five years during the long struggle.
Yet, just when we all thought that we could attempt to resume our lives and prior ambitions, Green Group Holdings has returned to attempt to exact an even greater toll on our community with a new proposed Pintail Landfill that would pose a far greater threat than the original.
The new proposal outlined in their recent submission of Parts I and II of a new partial application to TCEQ can only be construed as vindictive and an insult to the people of Waller County and the surrounding region. Did Green Group come back with an application that would be smaller, less obtrusive or more protective of the environment and human health and safety? NO, in fact, it is quite the opposite.
In the original application, either through negligence, incompetence, or worse, Green Group portrayed that the bottom liner of their landfill would remain above the water table and not be submerged within it. The opposition repeatedly warned both Green Group and the TCEQ that such would not be the case. Ultimately, we were able to prove that when the water table returned to a more normal level after an exceptional two year drought, and that is what led to the eventual return of the application.
The new proposal would utilize a disposal area footprint identical to the old one, however the bottom liner of this newly proposed landfill would be submerged into the water table of our freshwater aquifer nearly 23 feet deeper than the original one turned out to be. This, in the “sugar sands” of this recharge zone of our major aquifer poses a significantly greater risk of contamination of our only source of drinking water in the region. Also, this new proposed landfill would be nearly ten stories taller than the original one, placing substantially greater pressure on the fragile bottom liner. Its volumetric capacity would be increased by over 19.3 million cubic yards and the operating lifetime of the landfill would be increased by 18 years, to a total of 67 years.
In addition, there are no exclusions in the new application on accepting any the following types of wastes, as there was in the original application:
• Medical waste
• Dead animals
• Slaughterhouse waste
• Grease trap waste
• Grit trap waste
• Liquid waste from municipal sources
• Municipal hazardous waste from conditionally exempt small quantity generators
• Out of State waste
• Or, Radioactive waste that may be authorized by Title 30 TAC Chapter 336 or that are subject to an extension
It is almost unimaginable that anyone would, or even could, think about coming back and inflicting such insult upon previous injury to a community and an entire region which has fought hard and suffered monetary and life changing impacts in the effort to protect their community for such an extended period of time. But, nonetheless, we are now back at square one.
What makes this even all the more a slap in the face is the fact that both the City of Hempstead and Waller County has had existing landfill siting ordinances in place prohibiting a landfill at this location well before the submission of this new partial application. These ordinances prohibit the TCEQ from granting a permit in this case. Yet, as part of their new application Green Group Holdings is making some rather far-fetched legal arguments that the ordinances are not valid, a matter that can only rightfully be decided in our local District Court of Law.
The TCEQ, being a state regulatory agency, simply does not have the judicial authority to determine the validity of local governmental ordinances. Instead of returning this new application and admitting that they are barred from making a decision on the validity of the ordinances, TCEQ has recently announced that they will hold a new “Public Meeting” on this application on Tuesday, October 25, at 7 pm in the Hempstead High School Auditorium. They are wasting both state and local taxpayer’s hard earned money and resources in going forward in processing this application and conducting such a public meeting, all the while saying that they have yet to make a decision on the ordinances. That decision is not their decision to make.
We must once again band together and let TCEQ and Green Group Holdings know that our community’s commitment and resolution to fight this abomination has not only not waned, but will be greater than ever once the word gets out about what can only be seen as nothing more than a vindictive insult to all of us. We must all be responsible and take action to insure that we will have a greater turnout of citizens making comments at this October 25 TCEQ Public Meeting than we ever had at the previous ones years ago. We must stop this nonsense now.