News & Politics

Preliminary Thumbs Up Granted to Toxic Dump in Texas Flood Plain

Homes are surrounded by floodwaters from Tropical Storm Harvey Tuesday, Aug. 29, 2017, in Houston. (AP Photo/David J. Phillip)

The Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ) received a preliminary green light in January to build a toxic landfill outside Laredo, Texas, after a seven-year battle to gain approval.  The battle over the dump continues to this day.

This proposed landfill, called the Pescadito Environmental Resource Center, would be located on 953 acres about 20 miles east of Laredo, between highways 59 and 359.

Pescadito would accept waste 24/7, up to 10,000 tons a day, maxing out at 14.3 million cubic yards, according to the TCEQ’s draft municipal solid waste permit. The lowest elevation will be 453 feet above sea level, the highest, 701 feet.

And what a dump it is.

One of the major sources of contention with this project is that the landfill would take Class 1 industrial solid waste, which is classified as something toxic, corrosive or flammable, a generator of sudden pressure by decomposition or heat, or anything that poses a substantial danger to human health or the environment when improperly processed.

And furthermore, parts of the property are within Webb County’s 100-year floodplain. With the 1,000-year flood event that was Hurricane Harvey only months ago, this issue has become ever timely.

About a third of the Pescadito property is located in the 100-year floodplain, according to the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s map, but the actual landfill disposal area and the waste storage and processing units are outside the floodplain, Brian McGovern, TCEQ media relations specialist, told LMT.

PJ Media’s Tyler O’Neil wrote about the toxic dump battle following the devastating floods of Hurricane Harvey in Houston.  The New York Times reported that “at least 13 toxic waste sites in Texas were flooded or damaged by Hurricane Harvey.”

The TEQC has yet to give final approval for the toxic dump. There are a myriad of safety issues that still need to be addressed for the proposed dump and a motion to overturn the draft approval was filed in February by ANB Cattle Company, owned by cousins of Carlos “C.Y.” Benavides III, who owns Rancho Viejo Waste Management

“(Rancho Viejo Waste Management) plans to remove a major portion of the lands within the permit boundary from the floodplain so the land can be used for waste disposal. To do so, RVWM must build flood control and drainage structures on land outside the permit boundary, which ANB co-owns with RVWM, and pipelines owned by Hilcorp and (Kinder Morgan) must be relocated,” the motion reads.

After the devastation in Houston from Harvey, why even take a chance on a toxic dump located in the flood plain? What a terrible idea.

LMT Online writes, “There are still a few steps left to complete before Rancho Viejo gets the full green light on the landfill. TCEQ will be accepting public comments, and if the commission’s executive director determines there is enough interest by the public, TCEQ will hold another public meeting.”

Let’s hope the public is interested.