Allthis will become yet more complex next September, when the TACB and the Texas Water Commission will be phased out of existence by a new environmental mega-agency known as the Texas Natural Resource Conservation Commission. The TNRCC’s three commissioners will be the current Water Commissioners. No TACB members will survive the merger. Regardless of the name of the players for the regulating agency, the nature of the battle over burning waste in kilns will continue. Nothing will ensure that more than the task force’s most remarkable conclusion: It’s not necessary. Not now. And certainly not in the future. The simple arithmetic of marketing provides the smoking gun against waste burning that has so consistently frustrated opponents citing health and environmental grounds. Based on figures compiled by the Texas Water Commission, the TACB task force found that Texas already has approximately twice the capacity it needs for disposing of every drop of its liquid waste through 1995. That is a. lot of drops a projected 141,300 tons in 1995. But that’s only half the 274,400 ton volume, based on conservative estimates, that could be processed using existent kilns and incinerators. Even without the kilns, the incinerators can easily handle the load already. Chemical Waste Management, Rollins Environmental Services and Rhone Poulenc the state’s three licensed commercial firms . can currently process 122,600 tons per year only 18,400 tons short of total projected 1995 needs. If reserve capacity is factored in, the incinerators can handle 153,239 tons of waste. That would give the state almost 12,000 tons’ excess annual capacity three years into the future just from incinerators. The kilns are overkill. Under its current interim permit, TXI is licensed to burn 200,000 tons of waste per year. North Texas can, if it starts again, burn around 100,170 tons. That’s 300,000 tons above what the incinerators can take in. In fact, because neither plant uses its full limit, the practical capacity of both kilns is estimated at more like 190,000 tons per year. Even that lower figure is still far more than the state needs. And that doesn’t count BoxCrow’s application to burn. Or TXI’ s pending application, which the TWC staff has recommended for approval, to build new hazardous waste blending and storage tanks, which could add 370,000 gallons potential capacity. Nor does it count the efforts of Lafarge in New Braunfels, or two other Texas plants applying for burn permits. Nor does it count the plans of the incinerators to expand their own capacities. The task force came to an inexorable conclusion. If Texas keeps adding to its liquid waste disposal potential, and doesn’t generate even half the amount to fulfill it, what becomes of all that potential space? The task force had an answer. “To utilize all of the surplus capacity,” it said, “the State would have to accept over 100,000 tons of out-of-state liquid wastes.” The Lone Star state would become the Last Chance Dump. TXI provides tours of its plant, but won’t let you take photos unless you agree to allow company technicians to develop the film ostensibly because of fears of industrial spying. A college newspaper photographer was once stopped on a public road outside the TXI plant; his film was confiscated by a TXI security agent. So were portions of film taken for this story. Maybe it’s the incineration that you’re not supposed to see without supervision. At any rate, [thought a better way to see the cement kilns was not through a company tour, but via a narrow, muddy, public road that winds along the back side of the TXI plant until it crests a hill overlooking the plant’s quarry. Newton Branch Creek runs off to one side, finally joining Mountain Creek before feeding into Joe Pool Lake. From the top, TXI is the base of a panorama spreading across a huge prairie valley, with North Texas off to the north and BoxCrow to the east. Chaparall Steel is also in the picture, as are the black mounds of tire scraps at Safe Tire Disposal Corp., across the highway from the TXI plant. They’re being stockpiled in anticipation of expanded permits to burn tires at TXI and/or BoxCrow. Word is that a new asphalt plant will be built next to BoxCrow. In the middle of it all is the desolation that is Cement Valley. Pretty industrial for a place that was once a haven for Dallasites yearning for a few country acres. Is it also fraught with peril? New Braunfels City Councilman Paul Fraser has little doubt. The advent of hazardous waste burning into a community, such as Lafarge’s plans for his own town, ultimately changes the fabric of everything, says the outspoken ex-Marine. “Burning is only part of the problem,” he says. “Transportation, burial and blending of this stuff might even be a worse danger to us.” Many in Midlothian share this concern. In 1990, the highways, roads and bridges around Midlothian shuddered under the weight of nearly 5,000 incoming truck shipments of hazardous waste. That figure could increase fivefold if TXI gets its new storage tank permits. According to Ray Bernard, a member of the Ellis County Emergency Response Committee, neither the county nor the Midlothian fire department “are capable in any manner at all” of responding to a toxic spill or fire. The closest emergency hazardous materials team is in Fort Worth. Looking down at the valley of paradise lost, trying to be sure what I was seeing, I remembered something TACB chair Kirk Watson had said: “In Texas we’ve always understood water and land. Air, on the other hand, we’ve not thought about. So when you say, ‘Let’s clean up the land or the water,’ the response is, ‘Oh, we’ll burn it.’ That’s the way we’ve always approached things in Texas. If we can’t bury it or haul it away, we burn it. It’s just in the air. But it’s really a short-term solution. “My intuitive reaction has been that you don’t want to burn hazardous waste near people unless you can be sure you’re not exposing the people to something unreasonable. You’re dealing with something that has risks in it.” In the end, the dilemma about using kilns to burn hazardous waste comes down to two fundamental questions: Would I care if a cement plant were located in my town? If I didn’t mind, would my opinion change if the plant, without so much as asking my consent, began to burn things that could harm me, my family or my animals every day as fuel for that cement?. Paul Fraser minds. So much so that he, like some other members, refused to sign his name to the task force report when the TACB assembled to approve it. Not so much because of the findings, but because of something more basic because of language referring to the burning of hazardous waste as a “premise” of the study. To Fraser, word choice was important. “That isn’t my premise,” he told Watson. Rivers and the rest of the board. “It was an assumption but not a premise. An assumption is a starting point. A premise is something you agree about. I don’t agree that burning this stuff is OK. “The scientists can argue about the feasibility of technology forever. But what we want to get back to is the main point. We don’t want to not make cement. We just don’t want to burn hazardous waste.” r ,,,, THE TEXAS 110 server TO SUBSCRIBE: Name Address City State Zip $32 enclosed for a one-year subscription. Bill me for $32. 307 West 7th, Austin, TX 78701 THE TEXAS OBSERVER 15
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