NewsChannel 11 Investigates: Toxic Waste Part 2 - KCBD NewsChannel 11 Lubbock

4/28/09

NewsChannel 11 Investigates: Toxic Waste Coming to West Texas, Part 2

LUBBOCK, TX (KCBD) - NewsChannel 11 told you Monday about a historical cleanup involving General Electric shipping millions of pounds of toxic waste from the Hudson River and burying it in West Texas. Tuesday we hear from a former employee of Texas Commission on Environmental Quality. He claims he quit his job after permits were granted to the landfill against his recommendation.

Glen Lewis says he threw in the towel after TCEQ granted these permits allowing hazardous waste to be buried at the landfill site in Andrews, Texas. He says his reasoning is that those toxic substances will inevitably contaminate the aquifer sitting underneath that dump, which is one way Lubbock gets its water.

Lewis has been with TCEQ for 16 years. He spent nearly four of those years investigating the Waste Control Specialists site in Andrews, Texas for approval of certain toxic wastes. Lewis says, "I resigned my position there, mainly because of decisions made regarding the application submitted by WCS for disposal of low level radioactive waste at a site in Andrews County." 

Lewis wasn't the only TCEQ employee who strongly felt the WCS site was the wrong place for these contaminates. "There were two other people who quit specifically because of this," Lewis says.

The permit was just granted to WCS on January 28th, 2009. "All of our time has been wasted. We've all been played for suckers, we've all been pointless impediments to a process that resulted in issuing this license from the first day," Lewis explains.

During Lewis' review with TCEQ, he found that the landfill site is threatened by dump water draining into two water tables. One of those, the Ogallala aquifer which is water Lubbock drinks. "It may be as close as 14 feet from the bottom of the proposed trench. We found that those were unacceptable margins and were not the hundreds of feet of impermeable red bed clay that the applicant originally claimed," Lewis says. 

That is what WCS still claims. "At least 500 feet of red bed clay on the bottom of the landfill between the nearest potential aquifer," Linda Beach, the Vice President with WSC says.

So why would TCEQ and the Environmental Protection Agency grant these permits to begin with? Lewis chalks it up to inexperience. Neither organization has ever had to get rid of 1.3 million pounds of toxic waste and transport it to one location. "Nobody has really dealt with this. We can't look into a crystal ball and say that this site is absolutely going to perform satisfactory for 50,000 years," Lewis explains.

Rod Baltzer, president of WCS, says Lewis is wrong - the landfill is not over the Ogallala. "I don't think they've got the latest information, and they don't understand what the facts are," says Baltzer.

 Jim Conkwright with the High Plains Underground Water District says he didn't know at first if the aquifer extends under the landfill, but did some checking and says, "It depends on your definition of the aquifer," he continues to say, "Some say it is and some say it isn't."

WCS says according to maps by the Texas Water Development board in 2006, its disposal site does not sit above the Ogallala aquifer. WCS states that after Lewis left the agency, hundreds of additional wells were drilled to determine the subsurface properties at the site. The company has had several consultants analyzing the ground water results. Also, according to the company, as a result of meetings with TCEQ, they agreed to install long term monitoring of the water at the site. Its analysis says the water at the site is puddled and not connected to the aquifer.

Wednesday night, we'll have more from the president of WCS, and why he says the Ogallala aquifer is not under his site.   

4/27/09
NewsChannel 11 Investigates: Toxic Waste Coming to West Texas, Part 1
It is the biggest clean-up effort in the nation, and contaminants from New York's Hudson River will soon make their way to West Texas to be buried for good. NewsChannel 11's Nicole Pesecky is investigating what has become a state-wide controversy.

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