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-741-11 F3P70.: 74,T4017.24+ ‘4 I 0 Tom Lubbert, superintendent of the Big Thicket Preserve, has admitted that the National Park Service is concerned about what goes into Pine Island Bayou, but has backed off from further comment. It is perhaps possible that conservationists will have to file an injunction against Knight, Inc., but the legal status of such an injunction is uncertain. If past experience is any indicator, by the time the National Park Service in Washington, D.C., could be alerted to the threat, Knight’s dump could have been in operation for a decade and the lower portions of the preserve devoid of all forms of life save dead bald cypress trees and half a dozen species of anaerobic bacteria. Several thousand acres of the preserve have in the past been clearcut by small lumber operators while the Park Service and the Department of the Interior wondered whether the problem was serious enough to require funds for immediate study. And a landfill is a far less visible threat than thousands of acres of wrecked timber. The Big Thicket Association has passed a resolution condemning the siting of the toxic dump, and former U.S. Sen. Ralph Yarborough, BTA president, has protested loudly against what he sees as “a plan to poison not merely the Big Thicket Preserve but also Hardin, Jefferson, and Orange counties in southeast Texas.” Yarborough is not alone in his reaction to Knight, Inc. Among those who have called for a public hearing before the Texas Water Quality Board are the commissioners court of Hardin County, the mayors of Grayburg, China, and Nome, the Pinewood Civic Association, the Pinewood Water District, the city of Beaumont, the Lower Neches River Valley Authority, Norman J. Troy, Jefferson county commissioner, Jefferson Co. Judge Leonard Giblen, and Victor Bateman, Jefferson County environmental control director. Petitions with over a thousand signatures have been sent to the TWQB by 10 The Texas Observer Jeannie Turk of Pinewood subdivision, who heads an informal group opposing Knight’s landfill scheme. But all to no avail. The TWQB is headed by Hugh C. primarily for his sublime defense of the Houston Ship Canal as “not a seriously polluted body of water.” \(All this in the face of overwhelming scientific evidence that the channel is one of the world’s far refused to schedule a hearing. He has sent a noncommital letter to Mrs. Turk and has turned his back on a suggestion by Atty. Gen. John Hill that his office could file for an injunction to establish “the true nature” of the Knight operation and its legality. Apparently, though, such an injunction could not be sought without Yantis’ say-so. The plot thickens Yantis alone represents a towering obstacle. But the plot thickens. Alongside Yantis stands Carl Parker, newly elected state senator for Jefferson County and vicinity. Parker is the attorney representing Knight, Inc. It is clear that many of those who have protested Knight’s toxic landfill are afraid to buck Carl Parker. They shout, but dare not push. Yet, ironically, it is Parker’s legal opinion which most graphically underlines the futility of the Texas Solid Waste Act. A letter from Dick Whittington to Hugh Yantis and the TWQB states Parker’s case: “The attorney [Parker] representing the [Knight] corporation has informed the Texas Water Quality Board of his opinion that Section 4f of the Texas Solid Waste Disposal Act would prohibit the board from requiring a permit for disposal operations on any portion which is owned entirely by one producer and on which the industrial waste management corporation disposes of wastes only from a nearby operation of that same producer. Because exceptions to Section 4e accompany prohibitions in Section 4f, the attorney asserts that these solid-waste disposal operations would operate without providing any prior notice, any public hearing, or any opportunity for comment from the general public in Jefferson County.” What more could a statesman say on behalf of the people who have elected him? And of course, Parker speaks with a great deal of authority. He is said to have had much to do with the writing of the Texas Solid Waste Act, 4477-7 V.T.C.S., and doubtless has an intimate knowledge of its wonderful features. The problem is not limited to Jefferson and Hardin counties, however. It is statewide. What may happen to Pinewood subdivision or the Big Thicket Preserve could happen anywhere in Texas, if Knight’s Toxic Adventure is allowed to succeed. And it could happen with swift and devastating effect. In the words of Pinewood’s Jeannie Turk: “What can go next to a dump but another one?” Good question. Given 20 years and a moderate rate of industrial growth, one would find Knight’s operation flanked with numerous copies, and the original 883 acres multiplied to 2,500, or 5,000 or more. And one would expect to see the same sort of operation blossoming without plan along the outer fringes of Houston, San Antonio, and Dallas-Fort Worth, floodplains or not. Here, truly, is a New Frontier For Business and Industry. Here, at last, is a solid hope for all those rural communities who are hoping for industry but have in the past been Unable to Attract a Payroll. It is easy to imagine an internal corporate memo rallying executives against “outside” challenges to their toxic dumping schemes: “Fuzzy thinking and irrational fringe-group attitudes might even now deprive us of the chance to poison the water supplies of Jefferson County and maim a national biological preserve. What is necessary is quick action. All attempts to rewrite the Texas Solid Waste Act must be forestalled. The real danger is that unreason may prevail and that the long-term results of industrial dumping be taken seriously, and thought through in terms of water and air pollution and optimum land use. This must at all costs be forestalled.” Unfortunately, chemical and oil executives have had little to fear from the Legislature, and very few lawmakers even realize that toxic dumps exist, much less pose a threat. Rep. Herman what’s going on, and he is considering measures this session to close one or two loopholes in the Solid Waste Act. Environmentalists will be grateful for that, of course, but it is not enough. The entire law needs not only rewriting, but rethinking. Definite provisions must be made to protect our state’s precious water supplies, and some thought must be given to the looming sacrifice of our most productive and valuable farm and timber lands for dump sites. Probably, some toxic wastes should be banned from natural land fills altogetherthey are too dangerous. The public mind is barely alive to the possibility of nuclear dumps in Texas \(Obs., wake up to the significant danger of chemical dump grounds too. Only thus can the legislative mind be stirredor at least forced to face a little reality. Dr. Gunter is a professor of philosophy at North Texas State University in Denton. His The Big ThicketA Challenge for Conservation was published by Jenkins in 1971.