On September 13, the Executive Director (ED) of Texas Commission for Environmental Quality (TCEQ) issued a formal response to public comments from hundreds of community members who are opposed to a major amendment on Municipal Solid Waste Permit (MSW) #1599B for Greenhouse Road Landfill, a Type IV Landfill located on Houston’s west side near Katy. If approved by TCEQ, the amendment would extend the landfill’s lifetime to 2053, while substantially expanding its horizontal footprint by 31 acres and allowing its height to increase to 183 feet.

With support from stakeholders including the Harris County Attorney’s Office, Katy ISD and others, nearly 800 community members submitted comments to the agency in opposition to the landfill’s amendment. Despite the residents’ concerns over impacts to their health and welfare, the ED made no changes to the permit, stating it “meets the requirements of applicable law” in a final decision issued on September 20.

Community members now have until October 21st to submit requests for a Contested Case Hearing and/or requests for reconsideration of the ED’s decision. Any such requests will be considered and voted on by TCEQ Commissioners at an upcoming Commissioner’s Agenda meeting in Austin, Texas, at a date to be determined.

LSLA EJ Attorneys Rodrigo Cantú and Barham Richard have been representing two residents of the Rolling Green subdivision who oppose the amendment. The EJ team submitted comments to TCEQ in January 2019 on behalf of its clients, who say their lives have been seriously impacted by the landfill. LSLA client Guillermo Lopez explained that his entire family became sick as windblown trash, dust, offensive odors, rats, constant noise and runoff from the landfill began to encroach onto his property regularly.

Community member and LSLA client Linnette Figueroa says the noxious conditions created by the landfill have not let up ever since she first moved to the Katy area from Puerto Rico in 2017, after Hurricane Maria devastated her community. Mrs. Figueroa’s daughter suffers from asthma – a condition she feels is made worse by dust that encroaches on her property daily from the landfill.  “I wanted to give my children a better life. Little did I know the impact this landfill would have on my family, right in our backyard,” shared Figueroa.

Threatening the health of thousands of residents, the landfill is located just across the fence from many community members’ backyards. Resident Gary Brown’s grandson attends a grammar school located just 1000 feet from the landfill. “Teachers at the school are afraid to take the children outside for recess on some days, because smell coming from the landfill is so horrible,” shared Brown. “It smells like rotten eggs.” A licensed Professional Engineer, Brown is concerned about the threat of explosion from the accumulation of gases including methane and hydrogen sulfide (H2S) emitted by the landfill. Exposure to the H2S can cause nausea, tearing of the eyes, headaches or loss of sleep, as well as breathing difficulties in those with asthma.

Working tirelessly to help his neighbors mobilize against the landfill’s expansion plans, Brown started a community group called Stop Greenhouse Road Landfill, holding monthly meetings at the West Lake Volunteer Fire Department. “The landfill has not done right by this community for 16 years,” shared Brown. 

In 2000, Greenhouse Road Landfill owners signed a Settlement Agreement between the landfill, Harris County, and the Rolling Green Subdivision that placed limits on the landfill’s size and stipulated corrective actions it should have taken to reduce its impact on neighboring communities. Some of those obligations have never been met, said Brown. Community members are understandably upset over the landfill’s current expansion plans, which would negate the agreement.

Cantú says the EJ Team will continue to follow TCEQ’s administrative process on the permit application in order to help residents address the landfill’s historical mismanagement issues. “Our priority is to highlight the mismanagement of the landfill through the TCEQ, including Greenhouse Road Landfill’s failure to resolve a number of noxious conditions,” said Cantú.

Residents can submit requests for contested case hearing and/or requests for reconsideration of the TCEQ Executive Director’s decision on this permit by clicking here. Click on “Comment online about pending permit applications,” and then enter permit # 1599B in the box. Enter your name, contact information, and request information. The deadline for submitting requests to TCEQ on this permit is October 21, 2019 by 5:00 pm.

Image designed by Anya Gallant, Community Impact Newsletter

Lone Star Legal Aid is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit law firm focused on advocacy on behalf of low-income and underserved populations. Lone Star Legal Aid serves the millions of people at 125% of federal poverty guidelines that reside in 72 counties in the eastern and Gulf Coast regions of Texas, and 4 counties of southwest Arkansas. Lone Star Legal Aid focuses its resources on maintaining, enhancing, and protecting income and economic stability; preserving housing; improving outcomes for children; establishing and sustaining family safety and stability, health and well‐being; and assisting populations with special vulnerabilities, like those who have disabilities, or who are elderly, homeless, or have limited English language skills. To learn more about Lone Star Legal Aid, visit our website at www.lonestarlegal.org.

Media contact: Clarissa Ayala, cayala@lonestarlegal.org.