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At Least 40% of Active Texas Landfills are Leaking Toxins

PHOTO: A new report on active landfills in the state finds that at least 40 percent are leaking toxins. CREDIT: Bill McChesney
PHOTO: A new report on active landfills in the state finds that at least 40 percent are leaking toxins. CREDIT: Bill McChesney
December 17, 2013

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.

John Michaelson, Public News Service - TX