The city will go to court to fight a state agency’s decision allowing a medical waste-processing company to start a facility in southwest Mansfield, city officials said Monday.
The Texas Commission on Environmental Quality allowed a deadline for a ruling by April 6 to expire, effectively granting RedAway LLC the registration it needs to operate in a Mansfield industrial park.
Citing public safety and nuisance concerns, the city filed a motion last month asking the agency to overturn the TCEQ executive director’s Feb. 11 decision to approve the permit.
Because of overlapping timelines in the appeal process, the city filed suit in 98th District Court in Austin last month to preserve its right to sue the commission if it didn’t overturn the ruling.
City Attorney Allen Taylor, who said the city didn’t learn of the ruling until late Friday, said he wasn’t surprised by the outcome.
“We will proceed with the lawsuit,” Taylor said Monday. “That’s why we filed it. We knew that was the most logical course that we would have to go to resolve this.”
The city of Mansfield and Mayor David Cook are listed as plaintiffs in the suit.
RedAway’s proposed 15,000-square-foot facility at 208 Sentry Drive would use superheated steam to sterilize medical waste such as needles, vials and non-narcotic drugs to make them safe for disposal in a landfill.
The Dallas company started the permit process in December 2013 but hit a hornet’s nest of opposition at a state-mandated hearing on the application in August in Mansfield. About 400 people registered their opposition either by speaking at the meeting or filing written comments to the TCEQ.
The City Council and Mansfield school board have approved resolutions against the proposal.
RedAway has said that because the operation would not have an incinerator, it couldn’t accept biological and pathological waste, including body parts, infectious substances and narcotic drugs. But it could store that waste temporarily.
Some of the public concern focused on those substances, including fears voiced by some opponents that waste contaminated with the Ebola virus could be sent to Mansfield for processing.
“I think there is a great deal of misinformation about exactly what these facilities do,” said Ike Shupe of Fort Worth, RedAway’s attorney. “And lack of information gets exploited.”
The city in its filings contends RedAway has inadequate plans to control odors and to be “protective of human health and the environment.” The city claims the plant’s location is within one mile of about 2,000 residences, 50 industrial and commercial properties and three churches.
The facility would operate around the clock and could accept up to 50 tons of waste daily.
Michael Evans, pastor of Bethlehem Baptist Church in west Mansfield and president of the Mansfield school board, said RedAway “does not care about the Mansfield community at all.”
“They’re going to be right in the middle of where we’re planning to build two or three new schools,” said Evans, who led two protests in front of the Dallas home of RedAway CEO Justin Smith. “They know that what they’re doing is a hazard to our community¦. And we’re disappointed in the state, this entire administration, which is turning a deaf ear to the community desire (for local control).”
Shupe said the city approval process was going “quite smoothly” until the August hearing.
“This is an issue of the city having approved this facility, including granting of a certificate of occupation,” Shupe said. “I think the city knew what they were doing. Then this got to be a political issue, and they regretted it. They changed their mind at the 11th hour.”
After the hearing, the council imposed a 120-day moratorium on permitting such operations, which gave time for the city to adopt strict regulations.
Cook said he didn’t see the council’s change of mind as kowtowing to public pressure.
“As a city council, we certainly listen to the concerns and requests of our citizens and try to address their concerns as best we can,” Cook said. Fighting the permit, he added, “is what we feel is best for the city of Mansfield, and that’s what our citizens want us to do.”
Robert Cadwallader, 817-390-7641