Lewisville Leader > News
Farmers Branch proposes expansion of Camelot Landfill
Things are getting messy as residents and council members from surrounding cities sound off on a plan proposed by the city of Farmers Branch to expand the Camelot Landfill by 205 feet.
The Camelot Landfill was originally permitted in 1979 by the Texas Department of Health, a predecessor to the current Texas Commission of Environmental Quality. It began operating in unincorporated Denton County in 1980. The original permit was amended in 1981 to cover a total of 350 acres and in 1987 was annexed by the city of Lewisville.
The cities of Farmers Branch, Lewisville and Carrollton have grown and expanded. What previously an unincorporated area is now the Indian Creek and Coyote Ridge subdivisions of Carrollton, neighbors to the Camelot landfill and its neighbor the towering DFW Landfill, which has not so affectionately been dubbed "Mount Lewisville."
Camelot is currently projected to reach capacity within the next 16 years and the DFW Landfill faces closure in less than 10 years. The city of Farmers Branch applied in the spring with the TCEQ to expand it by more than 200 feet, providing 40 more years of service to communities, said Tom Bryson, spokesperson for the city of Farmers Branch.
"There's been a lot of talk about the reason Farmers Branch wants to expand is because the landfill will soon reach capacity, but that's at the current level of use. They're saying if the amount of garbage going in doesn't change, it will be filled," said James Kunke, community relations and tourism director for Lewisville. "However, you first should look at a way to reduce the flow and to my understanding Farmers Branch doesn't have a citywide recycling program. They also sell capacity to other cities, and it [the landfill] becomes money maker."
Bryson said Farmers Branch officials have been meeting with Lewisville officials to try to answer whatever questions they may have.
"The city of Farmers Branch has made a very deliberate effort over many years to listen to the concerns of the neighborhoods," Bryson said. "In an effort to impact landfill odor, the city has installed a methane gas collection system that converts much of the landfill gas to energy and burns off most of the rest. Camelot has been inspected by TCEQ at least 15 times for odor complaints in the past six years and has never been cited."
Farmers Branch representatives will also be present at the TCEQ meeting in Carrollton later this month. The public meeting will be held at 7 p.m. Oct. 25 at Creekview High School, 3201 Old Denton Road in Carrollton. It will begin with an informal discussion period to give the public an opportunity to ask questions. Comments and questions during that period will not be considered part of the official record and no formal response will be made. Afterward, a formal comment period will be held, during which members of the public can make statements to be part of the formal record and to be considered by TCEQ before a decision is made on the permit application.
Camelot Landfill also has filed a request for a 60-day extension to answer a list of 125 deficiencies identified in the application. In addition, Camelot has filed an application with TCEQ to use contaminated soil as landfill cover. Neither of those requests is expected to be part of the Oct. 25 meeting, but public comments on the contaminated soil request can be made online at the TCEQ website (permit 1312B).
Kunke said from Lewisville's prospective the expansion request is an environmental and quality of life issue.
"The landfill has environmental issues. From Camelot's own report, there are chemicals such as arsenic that have entered the ground water near the base of the Trinity River, which is a drinking water source for many cities including Lewisville," Kunke said. "In addition, from 2003-2009 Camelot has had some kind of violation every single year and some violations occurred multiple times. We think the entire landfill as a whole needs to be fixed before looking at expansion. We must hold landfills to higher compliances, and we don't believe Camelot is complying as they should."
Kunke said ultimately, TCEQ will make the final decision, but he said the public meeting is the best chance to speak up and have opinions heard.
"From our viewpoint, the more residents who show up, the better," Kunke said. "If you have a concern this is where you need to speak up. You simply cannot jeopardize water supply just to save some money on trash."
Bryson said if the request is denied and the landfill is unable to expand, solid waste will have to be hauled to the closest landfill in far South Dallas. Noting that fuel costs would drive disposal fees through the roof.
"We must view this issue in the proper perspective," Bryson said. "By its very nature, a landfill expands every day and Camelot will continue to do so for the next 16 or so years, even without [height] expansion. The permit request, if granted, will provide an option for the landfill needs of a great deal of north Texas, including Lewisville and Carrollton, for 40 years to come."
Kunke said Lewisville's official landfill is DFW Landfill located near Railroad Street. He said city trucks empty at DFW, but private residents could be using Camelot, but officially Lewisville uses DFW.
Leonard Martin, city manager for the city of Carrollton, said the expansion of the Camelot Landfill is a concern for neighboring cities. The city of Carrollton discussed the issue during executive session at last week's council meeting.
"It was an executive session discussion, so I can't really say what went on, but the council is clearly on record that the existing landfills negatively impact the quality of life in Carrollton and Lewisville," Martin said. "[The landfill] is already permitted so it's just something you accept. But the council is vehemently opposed to granting more intrusion on the quality of life by adding additional height to the landfill."
The council is so opposed to the proposed expansion, that is has retained council in Austin that specializes in administrative law, unleashing them to pursue every avenue.
Lewisville has also taken the first steps toward legal action.
"In June, Lewisville issued a formal notice of intent to sue," Kunke said. "What we're telling Farmers Branch is that we want them to fix these environmental issues and pull permit requests until that's done, we won't support an expansion. Clean water trumps a cheap trash bill."
It's not just the council that is opposed to the proposed plans, neighboring residents are also concerned.
"There is a large segment of the Carrollton population that is outraged and indignant," Martin said. "While they accept that what's there is there and it will go higher, they are just indignant that there is an effort from a city to impose this on them when it doesn't affect that city. The residents in Farmers Branch have no impact - they get a revenue stream off it. I think that's what makes people righteously outraged about it."
Frank Schmaeling, president of the Coyote Ridge Homeowners Association, which sits adjacent to the landfill, said he is concerned about any type of further expansion and has one major concern.
"It's the open-endedness," he said. "The city of Farmers Branch is proposing an increase in height, which is obviously very troubling for individuals because the last thing they want to do is look out and see another mountain."
Schmaeling said he was also concerned with the environmental impact of a larger landfill and fears what the height addition could do to home values in the area.
"We are very disappointed as far as TCEQ and all of the other governmental bodies in the process - we don't have a say in it," he said. "Unless there is a proven environmental issue or a proven health issue or as long as they meet all the statutory requirements they are going to get approved. That's pretty frustrating. They don't take into consideration what you would deem being a good neighbor."
Schmaeling said the HOA is hoping when the time comes for this vertical expansion, residents can voice their opinion and "that TCEQ and even Farmers Branch realizes that they aren't being a good neighbor."
"There's all these open ended solutions that really impact the homeowners in Coyote Ridge, River Glenn and the homeowners in Lewisville," he said. "There's a whole little patch in Lewisville that seems to be forgotten because it's a low-income area."