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The Road to Daingerfield MANY OF THE activists fighting the Thermal Kinetics hazardous waste in cineration plant came to northeast Texas via circuitous routes, but once they arrived they fell in love with the natural beauty in this land of hills, pines, and lakes. Walter Hammerschick, now a U.S. citizen, came the farthest. Born in 1928 in a small German settlement in Czechoslovakia, after World War II he moved with his family to West Germany. He finished high school there and graduated from Karlsruhe, a technical university, with a master’s degree in chemical engineering in 1954. After several years with a company that worked on chemical plants in Rumania and the U.S.S.R., in 1961 he joined Hoescht, a West German chemical company, working in India, South Africa, France, Thailand, and the U.S. before he retired in 1984. He first came to this country in 1974, working at Port Arthur, Spartenburg, Houston, and Baton Rouge. His decision to retire near Daingerfield was influenced, ironically, by a natural disaster while he and his wife Else lived in Houston. “There was a big flood in 1979 in Houston,” he said. “We lived close to a big creek, maybe a half a mile, and the water rose 15 feet and four inches. It was over 30 inches rain within 36 hours or something like that. Inch an hour. And most of the houses in our subdivision were flooded. And this dentist lived cattycorner to our place. His house had approximately five feet [and] ten [inches of] water. It meant that all of the furniture are floating and up and hitting the ceiling, and our neighbor and I, we got up in the morning at four o’clock and looked at what’s going on. I had a boat, drove it all over the place, and then we started getting the people out of those houses. Many were up in the attic or up on the roof. “And this lady, the wife of the dentist, she was up in the attic with four children, two of her own and two from Hughes Springs. The dentist was from Daingerfield. At the time the dentist was fishing in South Texas. And we carried the children out. And when I walked into the house I had to hold my chin up, you know, to keep the water out of my mouth, and we carried the children out on our shoulders, to our house. Then we carried the lady out she was sitting on my shoulder and his shoulder. “And then the dentist came back and he knew we [were] looking for land and one day he said, ‘I owe you something, Walter. There’s a beautiful piece of land in Daingerfield. If you want to buy it, it’s yours. If you don’t, I’m gonna buy it.’ And we came up here and looked at it and bought it. It’s the way I came up here.” JP we’ll go right on through the district court and on to the Supreme Court of Texas if necessary. We’re here to win.” TWO EVENTS IN NOVEMBER offered encouragement. COP leaders Slaughter and Hammerschick, accompanied by Bill Ratliff, a Republican from Mt. Pleasant, met with Governor Bill Clements on November 13. Clements received them in a friendly, interested fashion, they said, talked and asked questions for close to 45 minutes. He then issued a public statement which acknowledged that the Texas Water Commission would go through its normal hearing procedures and then would evaluate the impact of such a plant and make its own decision. He concluded: “All of this will take place in the routine course of a formal hearing of the commission. However, as Governor of the State of Texas, I am unalterably opposed to Texas becoming a dumping ground for other states’ garbage. As I understand the proposal contemplated, there will be eight to 13 states sending toxic wastes to Texas for incineration. I am opposed to such a plan.” Bruce W. Riekels, Thermal Kinetics’ general manager, told me he doesn’t think the proposal would make Texas a “dumping ground” and noted that Texas now is the leading producer and exporter of toxic wastes. Then, I asked, if wastes from other states were brought in, wouldn’t this additionally overburden an already overburdened Texas? “We don’t look on this as a burden,” he said. “It is a monumental leap to say that we will import materials from 13 states. We would prefer to do business with Texas companies.” He said that nine counties in northeast Texas produce 14,000 tons a year of a broad spectrum of hazardous wastes. Texas wastes, he added, include printing ink, ammunition plant wastes, paper mill sludge, and waste products from woodtreating, electronic, oil, and other industries. “It is a very complex subject,” he said. “Our permit application will be reviewed by state and federal agencies. We believe they will find it a safe facility. We believe when all of the facts are out, we will demonstrate that the facility is safe.” Also during November, COP began collecting signatures of county and city officials over northeast Texas on petitions asking the Texas Water Commission to establish a rule to prohibit hazardous waste facilities from being located “in an area which constitutes either an area of discharge from or recharge to a ground water aquifer or an area of direct or indirect drainage within 10 miles into a lake used to supply public drinking water.” The Hughes Springs city council first signed a petition requesting the rule adoption. COP then collected similar petitions from 12 county commissioner courts and 13 city councils over northeast Texas. COP claims the officials represent around 400,000 people. On November 25, two busloads of COP supporters traveled to Austin to back the presentation of petitions urging adoption of the rule. TWC immediately accepted the petitions, the first step in the rulemaking process. A decision is unlikely before early 1988. Meanwhile, Thermal Kinetics expects to submit its permit application either by the end of December or early January. And some COP leaders are eyeing a statewide coalition, perhaps even national, of similar groups. “We believe what EPA is doing now is saddling a horse from the` end,” said Hammerschick. “Not to dispose of the waste that has been generated they should go up front and stop it. Studies have shown that 80 percent of waste can be prevented. They do this in Europe, and it can be done here, the same way.” Ricky Shelton, a member of the public involvement committee that first heard the Thermal Kinetics proposal, said, “I’ve lived in East Texas all my life, and I can’t ever remember an issue that stirred the emotions and stimulated the intellects of the people of this area like this one has.” Judging by the grassroots response in northeast Texas, the clamor for safe handling of hazardous waste is a wind that could sweep across Texas. It may even become the issue of the 1990s, if not before. About a hundred years after populism stirred Texas. 16 DECEMBER 18, 1987