Page 15


Billy Hassell ALAN POGUE complain about were nowhere to be seen, nor were there flies. There was no odor and the plastic trash bags that used to end up suspended from trees and power lines were trapped by a “litter fence” and gathered at the end of the day. The “window” in the landfill’s “working face” was covered with dirt at the end of the day and the site is sur rounded by monitoring wellsand methane extractors, which draw the gas created by decomposing waste to large pipes where it is burned off. Even residents of the Flats who oppose the expansion admit that Waste Management has made the dump better. “It’s better than it used to be,” said Harvey Cox, who lives several hundred feet from Skyline’s south fence and who is a vocal opponent of the dump. The landfill was, however, as site manager Tommy James admitted on the day of our visit, receiving far less trash than it normally accepts. “About 900 yards a day,” he said. “We’re cutting back so we can meet our contractual obligations, so until we get the permit we’re just accepting waste from cities we have contracts with.” And the landfill is, as Lorrie Cotteril, an environmental activist from nearby Wilmer, said, only about one-tenth of the proposed dump that is “going to wrap around and swallow up an entire black community, people, houses, churches and all.” The residual left behind after years of bird droppings on clotheslines, prowling woodrats, seeping methane, overpowering odors and blowing trash, makes it difficult to focus on the real problem: the process. But Dallas FBI agent Jim Kendall is not digging in the landfill; he’s plowing through computer files, papers and interviews, and although he will not return phone calls, seems to be following a trail that begins in Ferris and ends in Austin, where TNRCC hearings examiner Linda Sorrells told commissioners at an emergency meeting on December 14 that her supervisors pressured her to issue recommendations in favor of the applicant. She also said that she shared that information with the FBI. The FBI is also working the streets of Ferris, where it seems that almost everyone has talked to special agent Kendall, and the trail of paper and anecdotes leads to one place: the large brick house of Billy Don Dunna former mayor and dump owner who now works as a Waste Management consultant and who is no longer talking to the press. “I’d prefer to let Waste Management answer all questions,” Dunn said. DUNN WAS MAYOR of Ferris in 1978 when he persuaded the city to turn the operation of its nine-acre dump over to him. Later that same year, according to an article written by Dallas Observer reporter Julie Lyons, the city applied for a permit to expand the dump to 73 acres, then transferred the landfill permit to Dunn’s company, Trinity Valley Reclamation. “The city of Ferris just couldn’t continue to operate the dump the way we operated it then,” said Bill Malloy, a Ferris businessman who served on the council with Dunn. The dump Billy Don Dunn ran in the old claypits was nothing like the facility Waste Management operates today. “Have you ever fought a fire in a landfill?” asked Danny Satterwhite, a pro-landfill downtown businessman. “Smoke pours out of the ground, it smells and you have to dig it out with a dozer. When that thing would catch you couldn’t see through the smoke and trash.” Satterwhite, who has also been interviewed by the FBI, said the old dump was an eyesore and a health hazard. In 1987, Waste Management bought the Skyline landfill from Trinity Valley Reclamation and in 1988 applied for a permit to expand from 73 to 310 acres. Opposition to the expansion grew and factions lined up behind acronyms that suggested tenacity. The formation of the anticountered by Taxpayers United for Ferris box rented by Billy Dunn. Initially the landfill’s opponents controlled the council. “Those fights were so bad that I’ve made myself forget some of the things that happened ,” said. Billy Hassell, a retired Texas Utilities employee who served on the City THE TEXAS OBSERVER 7