Thursday, May 13, 2010

Coming Soon: One Massive Mountain of Garbage

What is 130 feet tall, and 1,345 acres (2.1 square miles) wide and deep? Why none other than the Blue Ridge Landfill twenty years from now.

Here in flat, flat Texas, a “landfill” has the opposite meaning to where the term was coined. Where the term was coined there was topographical relief, canyons, valleys, and arroyos that is, and you filled them with trash and garbage.

But here, where there is nothing to fill, you stake out an area of flat land and you make a hill out of it.

In its present configuration, the Blue Ridge landfill occupies less than a square mile and is 58 feet high. About as high as a 6-story building. BFI, the original operator of the landfill, now Republic Services, filed for a permit to expand the thing to a new height of 170 feet, necessitating its areal expansion as well.

The City of Pearland as well as other government and non-government entities sought to put the lid on expansion of the landfill. Each group had their own list of concerns. But with time, each group’s concerns were treated individually, and each one, in turn, signed off on the project.

The most recent cave to the landfill corporation was that of CABRLE or the Coalition Against Blue Ridge Landfill Expansion. They signed off on the deal on Tuesday, agreeing to a smaller height over 20 years, as opposed to a larger height (170 feet) over 40 years, essentially kicking the can down the road.

Pearland, apparently is still against expansion of the landfill, as they are the municipality that will be most affected. My recollection is that Pearland was concerned that the site was leaking toxic levels of barium into the water table. Whatever happened to that concern I haven’t the faintest idea.

But what can you do? When the opposition groups are systematically eliminated by a deep-pockets corporation that litigates these issues as a matter of the course of its business, it is only a matter of time that opposition is ground down and eliminated.

And the culture here in corporation-friendly Texas is that it is assumed that corporations get what they want, despite what the people who live there say. Richard Morrison, the attorney that represented CABRLE puts it very succinctly as found in The Chron:

“Landfill companies are well-funded to have the best attorneys and experts to defend their projects. Also, state regulations are written with the assumption that a permit could be issued, he said.”

“‘It’s difficult to overcome that assumption,’ he said.”

No lie.

When Texans find that they are up to their armpits in trash and toxic waste, perhaps then they will object and win in the face of these endemic assumptions. The trouble is, I am afraid that by the time they finally get around to objecting loud enough, it will be far, far, too late.


Anonymous said...

What happened to the new district 27 state rep on this one and his trusty side-kick?

Hal said...

Anon, you are poorly informed.

There is no new "district 27 state rep." The current one, Dora Olivo, is still in office and will be until she is replaced in January 2011.

Amazing how your expectations outmatch your grasp of reality.