County judge comments on the dumping of sludge on Parker County

Posted Tuesday, Aug. 27, 2013  comments  Print Reprints

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The TCEQ public meeting held Aug. 13 in Springtown was well attended by residents from Parker and Wise counties. At stake is the future rule making regarding the ability of outside companies to dump municipal waste on rural Texas, without any constraints, or at a minimum, without proper enforcement of the rules when the company violates them.

Our citizens are to be commended for their thoughtful participation in the process. Commissioners George Conley, Craig Peacock and Larry Walden were in attendance as well as Wise County Judge Bill McElhaney and three Wise County Commissioners.

Residents who spoke made valid points about the negative impact caused by the improper dumping of human sludge by Renda Environmental. Renda has a contract with the City of Fort Worth to haul the material from the municipal waste system.

With proper application, we are told the application is safe and beneficial to the landowner. If that is true, then the application in this case was not done properly. A TCEQ staff member admitted at the hearing the application was not handled properly.

As I have continued to research this issue, I have learned HB2996 was introduced in the past Regular Legislative Session that would have made dramatic changes in the process, potentially with the chance for imposing greater harm or more negative impacts.

While the legislation added some reporting requirements for the companies, it changed the law from a permit process to a registration process. Liability insurance minimums were to be reduced. Companies could also dispose of grease trap waste and grit trap waste in addition to the waste now disposed of in rural Texas. Thankfully this ill-conceived piece of legislation was killed on a point of order by Rep. Geanie Morrison, R-Victoria.

I tell folks do not expect the practice to be stopped. The key for those affected is to insist upon rules that are fair to the community, not just one sided for the companies. We must insist on proper enforcement of the rules. Not selective enforcement. State agencies (specifically TCEQ and the Texas Railroad Commission) are not known for always protecting the citizens in issues like this. Instead, the benefit of the doubt is given to the alleged violators. As a community, and as Texans, we want what is right, fair and just for all parties.

There will be plenty of opposition to any change. At the hearing for HB2996 the companies were in full force. What you can expect to see is the companies might agree to some changes (perhaps similar to those in HB2996) in exchange for what amounts to a more lenient process in the long term, and the ability to change the product. Having watched similar processes in Austin before, it can quickly become a “smoke and mirrors” process.

The deadline for submitting written comments on the rule changes is Aug. 30. I encourage residents to submit their recommendations. Be specific about how you think the rules should be written and enforced. In addition, when the hearing is held in Austin before the TCEQ Commission, participation by residents is important.

The industry, their lobbyists and municipalities will be in attendance fighting any meaningful change. We need to stand together to insure this process does not become worse than it currently is.

Mark Riley

Parker County Judge


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