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City may add regulations for development over closed landfills

Monday, August 18, 2008 by Austin Monitor

The Austin City Council this week will hold a public hearing and take a vote on new regulations for development over old landfills. The goal of the update to the city code is to align city regulations with state regulations.


“We’re very comfortable with that state process,” according to Chuck Lesniak with the Watershed Protection and Development Review Department.  As he told the Planning Commission, “We think it does a good job of evaluating the safety for development over these old landfills, so our intent is not to duplicate something the state is doing or re-invent the wheel but just to make sure that our developers here in Austin are complying with the state regulations.”


Some of the proposed changes to the city code include clarifying that the ordinance applies to all new residential construction over abandoned landfills, not just multi-family residential. Projects that consist of remodeling of or additions to single-family residential or duplexes would continue to be exempt.


Lesniak told the commission the primary concern of city staff was safety. “There are roughly 75 to 80 abandoned landfills in the Austin area,” he said. “Most of those are in our jurisdiction. Old landfills present a risk to occupants of buildings either directly over or near those landfills from methane gas.”


The city dealt with a serious problem stemming from an abandoned landfill in the early 1990’s, when tests revealed the presence of an old landfill underneath the Water’s Bend Apartments in northeast Austin. Levels of flammable gas being emitted by that underground waste reached dangerous levels within those apartments, forcing them to be closed for several years.

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