A proposal to build a new city of Waco landfill off Old Lorena Road has raised alarms with the same neighbors who once opposed the existing Waco Regional Landfill, which abuts the new site to the east.
City officials hope in the next three years to get a state permit for a landfill at the 270-acre tract. They expect to open it eight to 10 years from now, when the existing 238-acre landfill south of U.S. Highway 84 is expected to fill up.
“We’re doing all we can to extend the life of our landfill,” Deputy City Manager Wiley Stem said. “But it would be shortsighted if we didn’t have a plan to replace it.”
Waco City Council this past week awarded a contract for $891,000 to SCS Engineers for design and permitting work on the new landfill project. The council also has approved $150,000 for related legal services from the firm Lloyd Gosselink Rochelle & Townsend. The city bought parcels for the proposed new landfill site between 2003 and 2010.
Stem said key design questions, including layout and road entries, won’t be answered until the design work is finished next year. But in the meantime, the city will seek to incorporate suggestions from neighbors into the design process, he said.
“We’re going to have a fairly lengthy, open process,” Stem said.
Stem and solid waste director Chuck Dowdell met this month with four households along Old Lorena Road to explain the project and seek their initial input.
Several of those neighbors fought the city’s landfill expansion plans in court in the early 1990s through a group called Citizens to Save Lake Waco. The landfill is near the South Bosque River, which drains into Lake Waco.
Wanda Glaze, a leader of that group who still lives along Old Lorena Road, said the city is now attempting the violate a promise in a 1992 agreement not to expand the boundaries of the landfill. That agreement, which also provided for additional buffering and reduction of the landfill height, freed the city to get a state permit to expand the landfill from 40 acres to the 238 acres it covers now.
“They said they would not go any bigger, wider or deeper, that they would not expand it in our community,” Glaze said. “They’ve gone back on that promise. . . . We just don’t want it here. There are lots of other spots they could put it.”
Stem said that agreement is not relevant to the new plan.
“It’s not an expansion,” he said. “It’s a brand-new landfill.”
Bob Kendrick, a retired bridge designer who has lived nearly half his 79 years at his home along Old Lorena Road, said he wouldn’t be surprised to see another court battle over this proposal.
“I’m going to see about taking it to the judge,” Kendrick said.
Kendrick and his wife, Cleta, live a stone’s throw from the
home of his sister, Jean Thorn. He said the existing landfill, less a half mile from his home, already poses occasional odor problems, and this would be much closer.
“You can imagine the height of it, looking out your front door,” he said, walking down his gravel driveway off Old Lorena Road. “The smell is going to be worse, and it’s going to be unsightly.”
State law requires at least 150 feet of buffering between a landfill and a residential area, but Stem said he expects to have more than the minimum buffer.
The city would also have to follow state requirements to avoid offsite runoff and line the bottom of each cell with thick plastic to protect against groundwater infiltration. The city would regularly drain the liquid leachate from the bottom of the cells and send it to the sewer plant for treatment.
The state also prescribes practices to reduce smells and vermin, including requirements to cover exposed trash with dirt. Also, the city must collect the flammable methane that forms underground when organic matter decays, then must flare it off or use it for fuel.
Neighbors say they worry about the traffic of big garbage trucks coming in and out daily. On a typical weekday, the existing landfill has visits from about 500 trucks a day. Most of those trucks come west from Waco on Highway 84, then circle under the South Bosque bridge to enter the landfill.
Dowdell, the solid waste director, said the new landfill would probably have an entrance somewhere on Old Lorena Road. That would require trucks to turn at the intersection of Highway 84 and Old Lorena Road, which turns into Speegleville Road on the other side of the highway. The intersection is at grade with a stoplight but is expected to become an overpass in the next few years.
Dowdell said city officials and SCS engineers will consult with neighbors about how to minimize the impact of traffic.
“We want to be good neighbors,” he said. “We don’t want to cause issues with traffic.”
The landfill takes in 240,000 tons of trash per year from 11 counties, with more than half of it coming from the city of Waco itself.
Building a new landfill will take about $6 million in startup costs for infrastructure, permitting and environmental testing, plus $2 million to $3 million for each cell. Stem said he is hoping not to have to raise residential garbage fees or borrow money to build the new landfill.
“Our solid waste department is in really good shape,” he said. “We do have a surplus. We plan on doing this with cash.”
The new landfill would have a lifespan of at least 40 years, maybe longer, depending on how much waste can be diverted through recycling and other programs. Dowdell said diversion programs have added several years to the life of the existing landfill.
Bought in 1985
Waco Regional Landfill, formally known as Landfill 948A, grew out of a 40-acre private landfill that the city of Waco bought for $1.5 million from Waste Container Services in 1985.
At the time, the city’s landfill on South Third Street was running out of space. The city of Woodway had the permit for the 40-acre landfill and transferred it to the city of Waco.
But when the city attempted to expand the landfill in 1991, hundreds of people rallied against it, citing concerns about water pollution and other issues. Landfill opponents fought the proposal in state hearings as well as in court, and the city of Waco spent some $500,000 in legal fees in the struggle before winning a permit in 1992.
Ken Cooper, a builder and developer who lives across Highway 84 from the landfill, was among those who challenged the expansion plans in the 1990s. The landfill has had occasional issues with odors, but in general it has not adversely affected development of the Highway 84 corridor, where he has built numerous homes, Cooper said.
He expects to be involved in the public input process on the new landfill, Cooper said.
“My biggest concern is with water quality,” he said. “It’s near the South Bosque River, which feeds into Lake Waco and is the water supply for the city.”
Cooper said he’s not necessarily opposed to the landfill site, but he wants assurances that the new landfill has controls in place to prevent catastrophes and safeguard ground and surface water.
“I do understand that trash has to go somewhere,” he said.