The Texas Commission on Environmental Quality has finished its technical review of the city of Waco’s permit application for a new landfill near Axtell, TCEQ officials said.
The TCEQ soon will issue a notice of application and preliminary decision, triggering a public comment period of at least 30 days, but the permitting process may not be winding down just yet. During a webconference meeting Thursday night, Waco and TCEQ officials answered questions about the project and took formal public comments that will be included in the review. Axtell residents have staunchly opposed the project since Waco bought the property in 2018 near TK Parkway and Highway 31. The city has spent $6.5 million buying 1,426 acres for the project, 502 of which is for the actual landfill, the rest intended as a buffer.
Waco Assistant City Manager Paul Cain said Waco’s current landfill will be full by 2025.
During an informal Q-and-A with state and city officials that started Thursday’s meeting, Axtell resident Heath Ivy asked about how the city plans to keep bugs and rodents that can spread disease away from the landfill, and what the city will do about litter.
Ryan Kuntz, an engineer who will design the landfill for the city, said landfill staff would check for pests daily and use pesticides when necessary. He said wind fences around the landfill site will keep trash from escaping, and landfill staff will pick up trash daily within 2 miles of the facility.
Ivy said he owns land within 2 miles and is concerned about workers on his property.
“If my wife and kids are home and she sees someone on the backside of my property, what is she to do?” Ivy said.
He said the meeting was “futile” because technical issues kept too many people from participating or commenting online. He said the TCEQ staff present used the COVID-19 pandemic to their advantage by holding the meeting over the internet.
“This whole meeting is a farce. This needs to be redone,” Ivy said.
A submitted question asked how many times the current Waco landfill has violated TCEQ standards, and how many times runoff from the landfill has gotten into waterways. Brad Patterson, a TCEQ manager participating in the meeting, encouraged the person who submitted the question to submit it as a formal public comment, because the TCEQ would be able to find the information.
After the 30-day public comment period on the preliminary permit decision, TCEQ will respond to all comments in writing. At that point, landfill opponents are expected to request a contested case hearing through the State Office of Administrative Hearings. If that request does not come, however, the landfill permit could be issued as soon as 31 days after the TCEQ responds to public comments.
The contested case hearing process can typically delay a permit by six months to a year.
Another participant Thursday, Dee Porter, asked what the city plans to do with the adjacent properties it now owns. Cain said right now the plan is to hold onto adjacent properties.
During the period of the meeting allowing for formal public comments to be entered, Ivy said the city had unfairly targeted a part of the county that has no way to vote out the people making the decision. She said most people in Axtell moved there specifically to avoid large governmental entities.
“It’s a really sad observation to see this group has the future of Waco … in their ability to just move things out east, where we have very little say over whether this happens or not,” Ivy said. “Having said that, if this happens, I hope the city and TCEQ take to heart that this affects generations of families who’ve made their homes and their ranches and farms in this area.”
In response to a question about water for the landfill, Cain said the city will buy water from Prairie Hill Water Co. in Limestone County, but staff members are looking into alternative sources of non-potable water.