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Area residents anxious as TCEQ prepares to rule on BFI expansion today

Wednesday, September 9, 2009 by Austin Monitor

A coalition of activists that includes both Northeast Austin residents and environmental groups is not optimistic that the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ) will come down on their side when they rule today on the proposed expansion of the BFI landfill in Northeast Travis County.


The three-person commission will hold a hearing today on a proposal by BFI Waste Management to expand the landfill some 75 feet in height, which if fulfilled would make the garbage dump—according to opponents—taller than Mount Bonnell (the highest point in the city.) BFI has countered that Mount Bonnell is actually 300 feet from its base to the top.


The coalition has been fighting the expansion for several years, but Jeremiah Bentley, president of the Harris Branch Neighborhood Association, said they are being realistic about their chances.


“The state’s administrative hearings officer has already endorsed the landfill expansion, so it’s likely that the TCEQ will follow suit,” Bentley said. “We don’t think that chance of them going against the earlier ruling is terribly good.”


The landfill is located due south of from Bluebonnet Trails Elementary School, where on the first day of school, according to Tracy Guidry with the Texas Campaign for the Environment, students endured yet another day of noxious landfill odors.


“Several worried parents have pulled their ailing children out of BTE, and have seen their health return to normal,” Guidry said in a prepared statement. “Parents of current Bluebonnet students, and former students themselves, are concerned for and wonder about the landfill’s long-term negative impacts on their health.”


She added that residents are also concerned about their property values and have lodged hundreds of complaints about odors, drainage problems and windblown debris, which she said continue despite BFI’s pledge to be a good neighbor in the permitting process.


The coalition plans a news conference prior to today’s TCEQ hearing at the agency’s headquarters. That will take place at 9am outside the hearing room in Building E at the TCEQ complex on north I-35 at 12100 Park 35 Circle.

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