HOUSTON - Some Northwest Houston residents say their neighborhood is being dumped on, literally.
They’re fighting to keep a landfill from expanding in the Carverdale Community. That’s in the area between Highway 290 and Beltway 8. The Hawthorn Park Landfill has been there more than 30 years but now Waste Management of Texas wants to make the landfill larger and some residents don't.
"I’ve got a lot of concerns," says Adrian Handsborough who not only is a landlord and a resident, he also has a restaurant, Virgie’s Barbecue less than a half mile from the Hawthorn Park Landfill. "In my business, you sit outside and you eat. It’s contamination, air contamination. You don’t want to smell something bad while you’re eating."
"They are talking about increasing the footprint by about 38 acres and increasing the height of the landfill about 87 feet above the existing footprint," explains Houston City Councilmember Amy Peck who’s the district representative. Another 87 feet is about seven stories high, which some say would be an eyesore.
The landfill accepts construction and demolition materials such as concrete, bricks, dirt, wood and drywall. Although it does not take in household or commercial trash, some are asking if more waste means -
"Toxins that we don’t know about. Asbestos I heard can be in the air," says Handsborough.
"I’m very concerned, especially about Tanner Road. That road needs to be widened. There’s a lot of work that needs to go into that road. My concern is just adding capacity to a street that already has issues," says Councilwoman Peck. About 125 Waste Management trucks travel Tanner Road and the company says that number will not increase with the expansion.
"This (expansion) is an application made to the state level and so the City of Houston doesn’t have jurisdiction over whether or not it gets approved but we are still doing what we can to help facilitate any questions or concerns from the community," says Peck.
Handsborough points out, in this largely Latino and African American residential area they pay plenty to be here, as taxes continue to increase "20 to 25% in three years. So we’re paying the taxes but we need to be represented".
In a statement, Waste Management says:
"The Hawthorn Park Landfill (HPL) is a regional facility that provides safe and convenient disposal services for communities, businesses, and industries serving Harris County. This facility is engineered with environmental protection systems that meet or exceed vigorous government regulations and is subject to highly regulated monitoring and reporting requirements. Systems at HPL include engineered liners and covers, and groundwater monitoring. Waste Management has filed an application with the Texas Commission of Environmental Quality (TCEQ) to extend the life of the HPL. HPL is not a new landfill. This is an application to expand the current facility that has been in operation over 30 years, which WM acquired in 1996. HPL is a Type IV landfill that accepts construction and demolition material. HPL is not a Municipal Solid Waste Landfill. Examples of the materials accepted at this facility are concrete, brick, dirt, asphalt, wood, drywall, and rock. This facility does not accept household trash or commercial business trash. The proposed expansion of this facility will remain within the existing site boundary. HLP meets or exceeds the standards for protection of human health and the environment required by law. The TCEQ is currently reviewing the proposed expansion to ensure it complies with all regulatory requirements."
The application to expand is being considered by the Texas Commission of Environmental Quality, which does accept feedback from residents and will hold a public meeting to address concerns if requested. Although it’s permitted to accept asbestos-containing material, TCEQ says this Hawthorn Landfill has non-hazardous waste and says landfills are "not a significant source of hazardous air pollutants."
Councilwoman Peck says she will stand with the Carverdale Community and write a letter to TCEQ of support or opposition of the expansion, whichever is the consensus among residents.