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In Wake of Hurricane Harvey Spills, Texas Landowner Fights to Import Toxic Waste from Mexico

Toll road developer Carlos "C.Y." Benavides III is continuing to press on with his plans for a toxic waste dump in a south Texas floodplain, despite toxic spills from flooding due to Hurricane Harvey around the city of Houston. Benavides' dump would receive waste from Mexico and other U.S. states around Texas.

"Building a landfill in the middle of a floodplain is a flagrant and reckless disregard of the health and safety of both humans and the environment," Laredo City Council Member George Altgelt said. "The fact that the proposed dump will be upwind (with volatile heavy metal-laced coal ash) and bringing its toxic supply of trash over the fabled 'streets of Laredo' is a risk we have decided is not something we can expose our constituents to."

Benavides has continued to pursue his project, despite multiple setbacks and a great deal of opposition. Rancho Viejo Waste Management (RVWM), his dump project, lost a property rights lawsuit, were denied a Webb County floodplain development permit, and received notice that developers have failed to obtain agreements from energy companies with land inside the boundaries of the proposed landfill.

Both the Laredo City Council and Webb County Commissioners Court voted to oppose the landfill permit.

The Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ) is still considering the RVWM application, a process which the website's records suggest has been going on since 2011.

As the TCEQ has acknowledged, "Approximately 60% of the landfill will be in the 100-year floodplain as defined by the Federal Emergency Management Agency." The agency also noted that tributaries running through the floodplain "run through the landfill and from there into the Rio Grande."

The RVWM dump would be allowed to import toxic, combustible, disaster, and medical wasted including coal ash and pollution control sludge from Mexico and states besides Texas. Coal ash is toxic, containing mercury, arsenic, and other heavy metals that are poisonous to humans and not biodegradable.

According to the proposal, the dump would be permitted to import nearly 4 million tons of waste per year, or 10,000 tons per day, and accept waste 24 hours per day, 365 days per year.

The San Antonio Express News reported that Benavides wants his dump to receive waste from an 800-mile radius via rail and truck. This radius would include most of Mexico, Texas, and parts of Arizona, New Mexico, Colorado, Oklahoma, Missouri, Kansas, Tennessee, Louisiana, Mississippi, and Alabama.

Such a massive toxic dump in a floodplain should set off alarm bells following the events of Hurricane Harvey.

On Tuesday, The Associated Press reported that "the U.S. government received reports of three spills at one of Houston's dirtiest Superfund toxic waste sites in the days after the drenching rains from Hurricane Harvey finally stopped. Aerial photos reviewed by The Associated Press show dark-colored water surrounding the site as the floods receded, flowing through Vince Bayou and into the city's ship channel."