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Monday, April 16, 2018 by Jessi Devenyns

Landfill fix on hold for now

Landfills exist comfortably outside of the public eye until something happens that reminds everyone that their upkeep is a critical component to keep our city functioning.

On April 11, Tony Davee, a project manager with Austin Resource Recovery, came to the Zero Waste Advisory Commission asking for some attention for the Travis County landfill on FM 812. Unfortunately, due to a forgotten document, there was nothing the commission could do to help spur City Council into funding the much-needed repairs.

The landfill, which is located near the intersection of FM 812 and FM 973, experienced significant damage to its eight of its letdowns – used to direct overflow waters out of the landfill – during both the 2013 Halloween and 2015 Memorial Day floods.

According to Davee, the waste management company has worked with both the Federal Emergency Management Agency and Austin’s Public Works Department to obtain the funding to hire a consultant design team and repair the damage. The most recent bid that they have received to complete the repairs was given on March 29 of this year and was accepted. “It’s a little bit over $1 million, $1,100,000, to get those letdowns repaired,” he told the commission. “(Which) we’re required to do … by regulations.”

Commissioner Phil Howry asked if the original design engineers did not anticipate this amount of rain. He suggested that since it was a failure of design that caused the damage, Austin Resource Recovery may be able to seek financial recourse through the engineers who did the design.

According to Commissioner Kaiba White, however, it is not unheard of for designs based on past data to fail because of unexpected climate phenomena. “The way you just described this sounds just like a climate change impact,” she said.

Davee explained that Austin Resource Recovery is taking the request for action to Council on May 10, and because it is anticipating a four-month construction phase, “We were looking at the middle of June to get that going.”

However, since there was no official request for action or request for recommendation before the commission, the commission could not take action on the matter at the meeting.

“I apologize but there is no action item here to actually review it,” Chair Gerry Acuna told Davee. Nevertheless, he agreed that “this is a really simple item. It needs to get done.” He suggested that Austin Resource Recovery move back its hearing date at Council so that it can present its case at the next commission meeting for a recommendation.

Photo by Estormiz [CC0], from Wikimedia Commons.

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Key Players & Topics In This Article

Austin Resource Recovery: Formerly Solid Waste Services. The department in charge of handling solid waste disposal, recycling, and--in what is still a pilot program--curb-side composting for the City of Austin.

City of Austin Zero Waste Advisory Commission: An Austin City Council advisory commission. Its members are charged to "[r]eview and analyze the policies and resources relating to solid waste management in the city and advise council on solid waste management policies and resources." Formerly the Solid Waste Advisory Commission.

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