Axtell: TCEQ gets an earful from residents rallying against Waco landfill

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AXTELL, Texas (KWTX) Officials with the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality got an earful Thursday night from residents against the City of Waco's proposed landfill in Axtell.

(Photo by Clint Webb)

"Best case scenario is that David’s stone strikes home and we defeat the mighty giant, and we’re able to stop this from going through," said Axtell ISD Superintendent JR Proctor.

The community has been organizing and raising money to fight the City of Waco since last summer when the council approved the purchase of hundreds of acres of property in McLennan, Limestone, and Hill counties for a potential landfill.

The fight went before the state for the first time publicly Thursday night at a TCEQ meeting in the Axtell High School gym to determine land use compatibility for the first half of Waco's municipal solid waste permit.

"We give the public impacted by these landfills the opportunity to address their concerns and give us information as we continue the review process, and we make sure we have plenty of opportunities for the public to voice their concerns," said Chance Goodin, Manager of Municipal Waste Permitting for TCEQ.

From Parents, to ranchers, to scientists...Axtell residents’ concerns surrounded the health and safety of their children, livestock, land, and history.

"This is going to have a huge impact on our community, on our school district, and I believe it will threaten the lives many of our students and community members, and it just scares me to death," said Proctor.

TCEQ officials said their goal is to make sure permit holders are protective of human health and the environment.

"As long as the rule requirements of the agency have been followed and are met, the landfill should be protective of human health and the environment," said Goodin.

Goodin said the agency works with many stakeholders when deciding on approving landfill permits.

"We are making sure the rules have been met, and that may be from a traffic impact study, geology data, floodplain and wetlands data, specific groundwater data, a number of different things," said Goodin. "We coordinate with several different agencies on their expertise when it comes to endangered and threatened species, with traffic analysis, and the Texas Parks and Wildlife is also a part of that, the Texas Historical Commission is a part of that, as well as TxDOT."

The proposed landfill location at 4730 TK Parkway would take the place of the City of Waco's current landfill which, city officials say, only has five to six years of life left.

"Landfills protect the environment, they don't hurt it," said Waco City Manager Wiley Stem.

Stem fielded tough questions from a crowd of more than 200.

"I was really looking forward to it, I think it's great to be able to engage the public, and that’s what’s really the critical part of this is listening to the public, and this is what we’re all about, this is the way you get things done right, it’s democracy," said Stem. "I enjoyed the interaction with them and we learned some things, and that's good."

Many of the night's comments from people opposing the landfill questioned if the City of Waco was, is, and will be a "good neighbor" as claimed.

"To this point, the City of Waco has demonstrated that they’re going to go by the book, they’re going to be compliant with the rules that are set out," said Proctor. "As far as being a good neighbor—that’s not my definition of a good neighbor."

In response to multiple questions and comments, Stem said the city was willing to work with various groups to help ease some of their concerns.

"I think that’s what part of our challenge is, is to work closely with this community to make sure that we have a solution that makes everybody happy," said Stem.

Approximately 30 people spoke out against the landfill during the portion of public comment that would go in the permit's public record.

The House Rep. for District 12, Kyle Kacal, stressed the importance of trusting the process.

"Public health and safety, having farm to market roads, environmental concerns, I mean, we work and produce more agriculture on the smaller plots of land that we don’t need to fight environmental hazards either, so let’s let the process work, let’s let the permitting process work," said Kacal. "We’re in the early stages--let’s follow the process and stay tuned."

Nothing was decided Thursday night--the process is far from over, officials said.

If the first part of the City of Waco's TCEQ permit gets approved, the city will have to submit the second part of the permit and repeat the process.

"We don’t really necessarily have a track record in the state of landfills that have failed," said Goodin.