Pho to by Lou is Du bose *t a t%im i: ‘As s, room, flanked by step tables covered with framed pictures of children and grandchildren, she leafs through a voluminous file of receiver monitor reports, inter-agency memoranda, manifests, site inspection reports, correspondence, all numbered and in sequence. She has noted contradictions, admissions by agency employees that Class I toxic material has been dumped at the site, dates out of sequence, on-site inspection reports where no samples are taken, and agency chemists who describe substances as “black-powder” and “barrels of oil.” Gloria Chaplin Yet she is not, she says, an environmentalist. “You environmentalists worry more about little red-eared fish in Barton Springs over there near where you live in Austin than humans. The only agency to ever come out here without being called were the fish and game people. They sent two officers out to inspect our birds, and I thought if they are going to take such good care of animals, surely we’re not in great danger.” While her husband Henry \(they are Eva Fontenot worked to compel the dump operators to observe the requirements spelled out in their permit. She began, as prescribed in civics class, locally, at the precinct barn, then went to the county commissioners, Harris County Pollution Control, state water and air agencies, and the federal Environmental Protection Agency. What she described, in an interview in early July, was a long exercise in futility. She has persistently complained of contaminated water from the landfill pumped into an adjacent ditch, of failure to cover material in the landfill, of overwhelming fumes from substances determined to be Xylene and Tolulene, of fine powder settling on everything in the neighborhood, of material burning in the dump, of the disposal of material not classified Class II. And regulatory agencies have responded. According to Allison Pierce, director of Harris County Pollution in four cases against Liberty Waste in March and April of 1983. The company was fined a total of $3,500 for emission of noxious odors. HCPC could not, however, determine that the dumpsite represented a threat to public health. As Pierce explained, the county budget is not adequate to allow his agency to monitor landfill properly; they must depend on state agencies. HCPC continues to monitor water samples from testwells, looking for trends that would indicate that the clay liner is deteriorating. The Texas Department of Water Resources has also filed against Liberty Waste. According to Clarence Johnson, field representative at the TDWR Deer Park office, the company was fined once in the 1970s for discharge of leachate into an adjacent ditch, and Exxon was required to reclassify some Xyleneimpregnated material and dispose of it at a Class I site. The Environmental Affairs Division of the Attorney General’s office has recently filed against Liberty Waste for permit violations and violations of the Solid Waste Act and Texas Water Quality Act. Dumping at Liberty Waste’s Highlands site was suspended in November of last year, and the TDWR is developing a closing plan for the landfill. Liberty Waste has been sold to Browning-Ferris, although former owner C.P. Joiner retains ownership of the Highlands dump. Joiner says he voluntarily suspended operations at the site “because of a lot of static from some women out there, one in particular.” Joiner said that the EPA approved the landfill as safe and that it is not yet closed. To close the dump, in compliance with permit requirements, all leachate must be removed, and the landfill must be covered with two feet of clay and one foot of vegetated topsoil. Since the dumping has stopped, conditions around the dump have improved, Fontenot said. But even the permanent closing of the dump, she said, would only be a small victory. Several years ago she was told by her doctor that her white blood cell count was so low that she no longer has an immune system. Other symptoms, such as numbness of extremities, swelling and numbness of the tongue, very painful burning on the rims of her ears, and twitching, have bewildered doctors. What is most unfair, Fontenot said, is that she was told that the dump was safe. “I didn’t move next to Liberty Waste, they moved next to us, and I was told there was no risk. Had I been told, I would have moved. I was only told after my white cell count dropped.” Gloria Chaplin and her husband James did move next to the dump, although when they bought their house and six acres in December of 1975 they did not know that the dump was situated on the property behind theirs. Ms. Chaplin was first bothered by odors from the dump in the summer of 1976 and soon found that she was unable to keep children in a daycare center in her home because they were constantly ill. Her six-year-old son’s nose bleeds, she said, whenever certain substances are dumped at the site, and her fouryear-old son’s language development is delayed. Gloria also suffers from chronic respiratory problems, twitching, jerking of body limbs. Her doctor, Perla Dizon at Gulf Coast Hospital, has told her on numerous occasions to move. Her husband James, an employee of Lubrizol, one of the companies named as a defendant in the suit, is committed to keeping their place at Highlands. Her fight with Liberty Waste and the lawsuit have placed him in a difficult position at work, she said. Attorney Benton Musslewhite After eight years as Liberty Waste’s closest neighbor, Gloria Chaplin no longer looks to regulatory agencies for solutions to her problem. “Channel 2 and the Community News have done more to help us than any agency .. . and Mr. Joiner told us he closed the dump because I warded him to death,” Chaplin said. “When Harris County Pollution Control took them [Liberty Waste] to court, they only fined them $3,500. It’s profitable to do wrong.” Gloria Chaplin’s files include a stack Pho to by Lou is Du bose 12 AUGUST 3, 1984
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