City of Waco cites engineering study claiming Ranger museum isn't on landfill

A recently released engineering study says part of the Brazos River Walk is located on top of an old landfill.

An engineering firm the city of Waco hired to study the Company F Headquarters behind the Texas Ranger Museum has concluded that the museum is not on a closed landfill, but a nearby extension of the river walk is.

The city hopes the findings will persuade the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality to dismiss a notice of violation that alleged the city built on a landfill without a permit.

“It is our professional opinion that there is no closed landfill in the vicinity of the complex,” stated a Feb. 10 report by SCS Engineers, a national firm that specializes in solid waste.

TCEQ officials said they were still reviewing the study.

The agency in January cited the city for three violations:

*  Failure to conduct a soil test for developing a site bigger than an acre;

*  Unauthorized disturbance of cover for a closed landfill; and,

*  Failure to deed-report a closed municipal landfill.

The agency considered the Ranger Company F building as part of the landfill area.

SCS said past testing had discovered a foot-thick layer of waste fill in the footprint of the Company F building. It is perhaps debris hauled in from the 1953 tornado.

But other borings around the complex found little or no trash.

The firm said more testing around the buildings would be “complicated” because of unmarked graves scattered around it.

In an agreement with the Texas Historical Commission and National Park Service, the city cannot disturb the soil more than 6 inches deep in the graveyard area.

Meanwhile, the city dump was about 800 feet east, or downstream, from the Ranger museum site, the engineers concluded.

The dump site, used from the late 1800s until after World War II, was never deeded but apparently built up along a stretch of the river and took up about 15 acres.

That site includes Baylor’s Simpson Athletic and Academic Center, which got a Subchapter T permit that allowed construction over a closed landfill.

The dumping ground also includes a project that didn’t get such a permit: the new river-walk extension between the museum and the Ferrell Center.

Report on river walk

Prewitt and Associates, an archaeological firm, did borings along the route of the river walk extension in 2008 before the route was constructed.

“The (river-walk extension) project area is entirely within the old city dump, and deposits of historic trash up to five meters thick were exposed in all the trenches,” a report from Prewitt states. “The proposed route of the Brazos Riverwalk is actually located on an entirely artificial landform composed of trash deposits.”

City Attorney Leah Hayes acknowledged the city should have gotten a Subchapter T permit before building the river-walk extension.

But she said that requirement was unclear at the time because there was no official record of a landfill there.

“We will be providing additional information to have that area fully permitted,” she said.

The SCS report suggests that the river-walk project is actually an improvement for the old dump site because it stabilizes the soil.

The city hired Prewitt to do an archaeological assessment of the river-walk site after graves were discovered around the Company F building.

To connect the new building to utility lines, the city’s contractors had to move more than 150 graves, and the city racked up $2 million in archaeological costs.

The graves in the part of the First Street Cemetery were supposedly relocated in the late 1960s. However, oral history and archaeological evidence suggest the relocation mostly consisted of headstone relocation, not exhumations.

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