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Dr. Evil

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I gotta give credit to D Magazine: They had the guts to headline an article “Harold Simmons Is Dallas’ Most Evil Genius.” Of course Simmons – Republican financier, Swift Boater, corporate raider, radioactive and hazardous waste empresario – may very well take that as a compliment.

Simmons hasn’t made his billions playing nice. He’s done it ruthlessly, spending money and political capital lavishly to get his way.

As the article nicely illustrates, Simmons has cunningly found a way to get the taxpayer to pay him twice in his waste management business. As regular readers of the Observer will know, we’ve written frequently about Waste Control Specialists, a Simmons company that has been developing a vast hazardous and radioactive waste dump near Andrews, West Texas.

(In the current issue, I look at how Waste Control probably flipped the state the bird and imported waste they weren’t supposed to.)

Andrews, Texas

The D Magazine piece lays bare how Waste Control is getting paid to deal with the contamination caused by another Simmons’ company, NL Industries. For decades, NL Industries ran a reckless uranium processing operation in Fernald, Ohio that contaminated the soil, water wells and workers at the site. Radioactive contamination of groundwater there could persist for 100 years.

Cleaning this mess up has cost the federal taxpayer some $4.4 billion. NL Industries? Nothing.

More incredible is that Waste Control is getting paid to bury some of the Fernald waste at its Andrews site… over what some TCEQ geologists contend is an aquifer.

Also last year, WCS buried 3,776 canisters of uranium byproduct waste generated by the NL Industries facility across the street from Lisa Crawford’s house in Fernald, Ohio. One Simmons company made the waste. The other buries it. And it all comes to West Texas.

The D Magazine article also captures the ever-changing “science” behind the Andrews site’s hydrogeology. You’d think after at least five years of study, we’d have a clear answer to the question, Is the dump located over an aquifer? Nope.

To recap: first the boundary dispute involved one aquifer under the site. Then the revised maps showed it was another aquifer. Then WCS said no, it was actually a third, and it was briney. But both the state board in charge of aquifers and the USGS say there is interchange among the aquifers.

If there is hydraulic communication between aquifers in Andrews County, then disputes over the boundaries of the Ogallala Aquifer at the WCS site are beside the point.

 

Forrest Wilder, a native of Wimberley, Texas, is associate editor of the Observer. Forrest specializes in environmental reporting and runs the “Forrest for the Trees” blog. Forrest has appeared on Democracy Now!, The Rachel Maddow Show and numerous NPR stations. His work has been mentioned by The New York Times, the Washington Post, the New Yorker, Time magazine and many other state and national publications. Other than filing voluminous open records requests, Forrest enjoys fishing, kayaking, gardening and beer-league softball. He holds a bachelor's degree in anthropology from the University of Texas at Austin.