Residents worry proposed landfill will upend their lives next to Sam Houston National Forest – Houston Chronicle

The comments against the proposed landfill occurred during a Tuesday night virtual meeting hosted by the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality.

“This is not a safe place for this type of a landfill,” said Jackie Woychesin, “and somebody needs to be representing the environment and the people of this county instead of just processing a permit for San Jacinto County.”

Officials with a Mississippi-based company, PC-II, hope to build a more than 100-acre municipal waste landfill on their timber property in San Jacinto County. The company has promoted it as an economic boost for a place where there is a demonstrated need for this sort of facility. Two other landfills already exist close by.

State rules allow landfills to be located next to or in national forests.

Company officials insist the landfill will have appropriate checks, including a liner to keep contaminants out of the groundwater and monitoring wells in case a leak occurs. Gas monitoring also will take place, with potential for flaring if too much gas is released. Extra-smelly material will be treated with added precaution, they said.

“We will continue to be a good neighbor and contributor to this community,” said Wirt Yerger, an owner of PC-II, as the meeting began.

Many of the more than two dozen who spoke in the online meeting were not buying it, saying the landfill would be a nightmare. The peaceful area already was becoming known as “the dump,” Linda Stegenga said.

The residents envisioned a constant flow of trash trucks tearing apart the already damaged county roads and said they fear not learning until it was too late that the drinking water their families consume was tainted.

They predicted pollution washing toward Houston during frequent floods, the steady flow of traffic making it hard for children to play outside or wait for the school bus and the landfill activity changing the habits of forest animals, including the woodpeckers one resident cherished.

More from Emily Foxhall: Cleanup on hazardous San Jacinto waste pits could finally start next year

“This is environmental justice?” Stegenga asked.

State regulators offered the meeting as a chance for residents to ask questions and voice concerns. TCEQ staff are still reviewing the application and will respond later to public comments, which is expected to include a list of potential impacts forest officials said they planned to submit.

Van Weldon, whose farm is adjacent to the proposed landfill site, had been working for months with neighbors to let people know what was happening. He also reached out to an attorney, determined to fight the landfill.

“Location is everything,” the attorney, Bryan French, said Tuesday night. “And in this case the proposed location of this landfill is a terrible idea. Who on earth thinks that a landfill is compatible with a national forest or produce farm?”

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