Opponents of the proposed Waco Landfill expansion offered newly-uncovered evidence Thursday that bolsters their argument against the project.
The Citizens Against the Highway 84 Landfill group said the proposed City of Waco Landfill property –adjacent to the original landfill -- overlaps with a newly uncovered easement purchased in 1961 by the U.S. Government to protect the Waco Reservoir drinking water supply.
The proposed site for the landfill expansion already had staunch opposition for its close proximity to the McGregor Executive Airport and its related potential for attracting more birds that could threaten flights. For that reason, the site received criticism from Waco residents and The Alliance for the McGregor Airport, an organization representing aircraft owners, operators, pilots and passengers.
“As a pilot who has encountered numerous bird strikes in the McGregor area already, I am very worried that the expanded larger landfill will threaten the life of any pilot or passengers flying into Waco or McGregor, and potentially the public on the ground below,” Alliance for the McGregor Airport President Sam Starling said back in June.
According to the Federal Aviation Administration, there were more than 142,000 wildlife strikes nationwide between 1990 and 2013.
In July, an engineer presented Waco City Council with a backup location at an undisclosed location within 15 miles of the city rather than the proposed Highway 84 location. The consulting firm also found two more sites that were slightly outside the radius. However, anything further that the 15 miles would require a costly transfer station.
The closest alternative site within radius – and not requiring a transfer station – was 290 acres of land and would cost approximately $2.3 million to purchase, according to city officials.
Critics of the original proposed landfill site said the city is not allowed to build or excavate any land in the easement because it could jeopardize the watershed – and thus, drinking water. According to the map made public Thursday, the proposed landfill expansion location is squarely on the easement.
“The easement is active and still in force, and clearly shows that, not only is the new landfill in the FEMA 100-year floodplain, but portions of land are in the Waco Reservoir watershed protected space,” critics wrote in an announcement Thursday.
According to Citizens Against the Highway 84 Landfilll, the Army Corps of Engineers can flood the aforementioned flowage easement, as needed, meaning a significant chunk of the trash-filled landfill would be under water if the Corps needed to take such action. Opponents believe the consequences of garbage in the water could be severe. Additionally, the group said roughly 75-percent of the proposed landfill site would be surrounded by water during a flood.
“Placing a solid waste landfill in the 503 easement violates TCEQ standards and would absolutely threaten our drinking water during any flood,” the opponent group’s chair Brad Holland said.
The Army Corps of Engineers is charged with maintaining Lake Waco, and the landfill may now place the City of Waco at odds with the TCEQ, according to opponents.
“The easement likely explains why the City of Waco has not been able to produce a map of the 100-year floodplain that doesn’t involve the new landfill,” critics wrote in a press release. “All FEMA maps clearly show that the new landfill site is in the 100-year floodplain, and therefore prohibited from being considered by TCEQ.”
The Twin Rivers Homeowners Association is less than a mile from the proposed site. Sam Brown, the association’s president said every Wacoan wants to protect their drinking water and Lake Waco.
“It is incomprehensible that the City Council would proceed with the Hwy 84 location given this newly-found easement on the land,” Brown said.
The Citizens Against the Landfill group is currently in the process of alerting all local, state and national elected representatives of the potential threat to quality drinking water.
In 2011, the proposed landfill property was purchased by the City for $2,853.38 from the Miller family. Structures for human habitation could not be constructed or maintained on the land.
The Citizens Against the Hwy 84 Landfill group said it was unclear if Waco was aware of the 1961 easement when the property was purchased in 2011, and the city has never publicly published anything referencing the easement. The organization said it will be a definite roadblock in permitting the landfill and opens the project up for more litigation.
City of Waco’s Position
When KCEN-TV contacted Waco City Spokesperson Larry Holze in June about the proposed Landfill, we received the following brief statement.
"We don't give responses to statements by groups or individuals on pending issues," Holze wrote in an email response to the Channel Six inquiry.