Let’s say an out-of-state conglomerate wants to put a massive dump near an aquifer and right next to a flood plain. Add a high hazard dam right next door that secret government maps detail 318 people’s lives are at risk if the dam breaches.
Wouldn’t we want to know if the engineers and geologists who investigated the site told the truth about the site’s safety?
Amidst growing evidence, the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality ignored its own rules to approve a permit for the Caldwell County dump. It is time for the engineers and geologists who destroy their work to be held accountable.
Thursday morning at 10:00 am in front of the Texas State Capitol, opponents of a planned 17- story tall tower of trash near Lockhart will hold a news conference to announce the filing of formal complaints with the two agencies who police the conduct of engineers and geoscientists.
These complaints allege a series of professional misconduct against Kerry Don Maroney, an engineer with the environmental consulting firm Biggs & Mathews Environmental, and John Michael Snyder, a geologist at the same consulting firm.
Maroney served as engineer of record for the controversial 130 Environmental Park dump in Caldwell County, Texas, just north of Lockhart. The landfill permit application was submitted by 130 Environmental Park LLC, a subsidiary of Green Group Holdings. The complaint alleges that Maroney used his state engineering seal to approve work he improperly supervised – a violation of the Texas Board of Professional Engineers rules.
“In the last several years, Mr. Maroney has engaged in conduct that appears to have violated the stringent ethical and professional requirements of Texas engineers,” reads the complaint. “This conduct has resulted in the permitting of at least one facility, based on Mr. Maroney’s representations and engineer’s seal, which threatens to impact the health and safety of Texas residents and their natural resources.”
We now know the consulting firm of Biggs & Matthews Environmental was caught destroying soil samples in three separate landfill projects, Waller County, Jack County, and Caldwell County. Why the TCEQ continues to rely on this consulting firm for landfill science is the real question.
The second complaint is leveled against Biggs & Mathews Environmental geoscientist, John Michael Snyder. The complaint provides evidence of unprofessional conduct in three separate landfill projects.
“Despite his experience with landfill permit application proceedings and the opposition they attract, Snyder has a history of discarding all relevant records and samples before the Texas Commission for Environmental Quality (the agency responsible for permitting landfills) completes its review of the application,” the complaint reads. “This not only violates professional geoscientist standards, but it also violates TCEQ’s rules and legal obligations.”
Snyder was the geologist on the failed Highway 6 landfill in Waller County. Opponents had to fight for years and spend more than a million dollars to finally get access to test Biggs & Matthews Environmental’ s representations about the safety of the dump. Once the opponents were granted access to the site, it became apparent that Snyder’s representations regarding groundwater at the site were false, with serious repercussions.
Had the Highway 6 landfill been built, it would have cut through the water table and placed at risk the drinking water for tens of thousands of people.
Even worse, the TCEQ knew of this history before it met in November 2017 to approve the Caldwell County dump permit. The permit was approved even though Biggs & Mathews Environmental was doing the consulting work again, and once again they had destroyed data and soil samples that formed the basis for their representations to TCEQ regarding the adequacy of the site for a landfill.
The TCEQ failed to enforce its own rule. According to 30 Texas Administrative Code §305.47: “A permittee … shall keep records, throughout the term of the permit or order, of data used to complete the final [landfill permit] application and any supplemental information.”
The legislature is looking at the situation as an example of a deeply flawed TCEQ permitting process.
Environmental attorney Marisa Perales told the Texas Senate Committee on Natural Resources and Economic Development about a litany of problems, specifically citing the fact that the TCEQ never bent to its own rules with the Biggs & Mathews Environmental projects.
Perales insists Biggs & Mathews Environmental’ s conduct should halt the dump entirely. It amounts to a denial of due process, she said, for the dump’s opponents to not have a chance to check the work.
“If the data has been discarded and there is no way to actually verify the data that supports the information in the application, then they should start all over because there’s no way to know whether what they’ve submitted is accurate or not,” said Perales during the September 5 hearing. “If we go through a hearing and it’s proven that you were unable to satisfy the TCEQ requirements, then you don’t get the permit. You don’t get another chance, you don’t get another bite at the apple. You just don’t get your permit.”
WHERE: Front Steps of Texas State Capitol Building – 1100 Congress Ave, Austin, Texas 78701
10 am, Thursday, September 13, 2018
WHO: Frank Sughrue, Marisa Perales, Wayne Dolcefino
Secret government maps detail the scary result if an earthen dam in Caldwell County ever breaches.
The projected possible death toll – 318 people.
The maps were obtained by Dolcefino Consulting as part of our widening investigation of Site 21, and the warnings that putting a 17-storey garbage dump next to it has serious risks to life and property.
The TCEQ has approved a permit for the 130-dump operated by controversial trash firm Green Group, ignoring warnings from even the agency own public watchdog the dump next to the dam spells trouble.
The fear is that garbage will blow in and block a critical pipe which helps relieve pressure in flood events.
“In coming days, we will continue to expose what the politicians haven’t told the families at greatest risk”, says Wayne Dolcefino, President of Dolcefino Consulting, the Houston based investigative communications firm that helped defeat another proposed Green Group dump in Waller County near Hempstead. “You don’t have to be an engineer to understand the dumpsite creates a potential danger that voters in Caldwell County have just not been warned about.”
Site 21 is one of 1,364 high hazard dumps in Texas. We have learned TCEQ Commissioners never consulted its own Dam Safety Engineers before approving the Green Group permit.
There are increasing questions the agency set up to protect our environment failed to take Site 21 seriously enough. The last inspection by TCEQ dam safety engineers was in July 2014, three years before the dump was approved.
Also frightening, documents obtained by Dolcefino Consulting show the dam safety program waited a year to even send the results of the inspection to the folks who manage Site 21, the Plum Creek Conservation District. We also know Plum Creek never even responded to State Dam Safety Officials.
The secret government maps are considered a Homeland Security Secret, and we found residents along Alamo Drive who didn’t even know they lived closely downstream from the dam.
“I mean the trash is going to get infected with the water and it is just going to mess up everything for us out here,” said Felix Christian, who lives in the neighborhood south of the dam. “It is going to make us move from a property that we have built up and that we have paid for a minute now and you know we can’t afford that, we can’t afford to go somewhere else and to move on.”
Felix Christian says his neighbors are worried about the dump and what it will do to health and safety. His grandparents built the home he now shares with them.
“Whoever is trying to run the trash, whoever it is, it is not a healthy choice for anybody out there,” said Christian.
Opponents of the dump say the maps show the deadly consequences of the warnings they have been making.
“I was really disappointed in them not even discussing the high hazard dam,” said Frank Shugrue, a longtime opponent of Green Group’s plan. “I mean you heard it there. If it fails, there are lives at stake. And they are going to allow a permit that puts in a landfill upstream of this high hazard dam Site 21 is now being renovated just to come up to the high hazard standards.”
“It is not too late for the TCEQ to rethink this,” says Dolcefino. “The proposed 130 dump is next to a floodplain, virtually on top of an aquifer, and next door to the dam that if breached will inundate thousands of people. Why would the state be willing to take that chance. If something goes wrong, there will be outrage and serous financial consequences.”
Plum Creek Conservation District has the power to block the dump but took a neutral position in the permit fight. The members are appointed by the Caldwell County Commissioners Court, which has voted to stop the legal fight, and offer concessions to Green Group without getting any more environmental protections in return
Stay tuned. We follow the e-mail trail. What we found raises serious questions about Plum Creek’s maintainer of the dam
We have seen troubling e-mails that What we have discovered raises serious questions about Plum Creeks maintenance of the dam.
“The public has been kept in the dark for months by Commissioners Court about the Green Group dump”, says Dolcefino. “It is time for a public hearing to tell people the truth about the potential danger. Anything else is unacceptable. Caldwell County voters elect a new court in November.”
When readers complained, the newspaper sent this response.
“The advertisement submitted to us is potentially libelous, which is what we told Dolcefino.”
First, the newspaper refused to tell us why they couldn’t run the ad, and when we asked what we could change to get it in the paper, they hung up on us.
The ad matches a political flyer Expose Green Group has placed in many Lockhart area stores. It is simply the answers to questions, records of the votes of public meetings, and details of phone records received under state law.
“The Lockhart Post Register has ignored this dump controversy, and cheated its readers,” says Wayne Dolcefino, President of Dolcefino Consulting, “They should disclose immediately just how much ad money they have received from the garbage dump folks, Green Group.”
Here are the facts.
When Dolcefino Consulting first sought public records from Caldwell County, the County Judge spent tens of thousands of dollars of your taxpayer money on legal bills fighting your public right to know. They could have saved all that money.
The Lockhart Post Register was silent. How could the local paper not report the waste of taxpayer money?
When we learned former Caldwell County Judge Tom Bonn had destroyed public records as he left office, the District Attorney took no action.
The Lockhart Post Register was again silent.
We learned that Hoppy Haden and Ken Schawe had been secretly communicating with Green Group while county taxpayers were spending tens of thousands of dollars fighting the company to stop the dump. We even have video of the meetings where Haden himself admits it on the record.
The Lockhart Post Register was silent.
When the public counsel for the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality warned the dump should be denied because it was potentially dangerous, we sent the newspaper his comments.
The Lockhart Post Register should have sounded an alarm. It didn’t.
The newspaper knows the 130 Environmental Park has no current plans to include an industrial park. It may employ less than a dozen people. Sure, the dump will share money with local government, but maybe all that money should go to the people who will see their property values drop, or worse, must live with the fear of contamination, the smell, the mix of garbage trucks with school buses.
“We think voters should be reminded how politicians stand. Who has kept their campaign promises? Commissioner Joe Roland has fought against the dump from the start. Judge Ken Schawe has fought your right to know about the dump. Those facts matter,” says Dolcefino.
Hoppy Haden helped set up a citizens committee to meet with Green Group. The company never showed, issued some demands, and then Haden just dissolved the committee. That matters. Haden was part of a group that promoted the dump.
Haden, Schawe, Theriot and Moses all voted to stop the legal fight against the dump, even though the lawyer paid by the county thought it was a bad move. Those facts matter.
Caldwell County says they have had no communications for months with Green Group. The garbage guys are waiting for the election results too.
Caldwell County has a siting ordinance that prohibits a dump where Green Group wants to put one. Will the new County Judge protect the ordinance, or toss it in the trash? What about commissioners?
Fred Bucholtz is running for Precinct 2. He doesn’t think the siting ordinance prohibits the dump. Facts matter.
Based on their votes and their campaign promises, we know that only two candidates for County Judge have publicly promised to fight the dump. Alfredo Munoz and Anna Ybarra. Ybarra says she will emphatically fight to protect the siting ordinance.
That is why we are challenging the editor of the Lockhart Post Register to a debate.
“This is not just about an ad anymore,” says Dolcefino, “Now that the newspaper is claiming our voter guide was potentially libelous, we would love to find out which part.”
The Lockhart Chamber of Commerce recently fought to hide e-mails about the dump, even though they are more than happy to get a bunch of tax money every year. More than happy to make money off a dump that other people will have to live near.
The newspaper has been silent on that too.
“Maybe catering to the Chamber of Commerce is good for business, but it is an insult to every small-town newspaper reporter who knew their job was to ask tough questions, even when it made them unpopular with the political class,” says Dolcefino.
We will come to Lockhart. We will even bring the camera. You can have one too. Let’s videotape the debate and put it on your website and ours. Won’t cost you a penny.
Let’s educate the voters together.
Open the latest edition of any newspaper, and you can clearly see it’s election season.
Advertisements of all sizes.
Check out the latest edition of the Lockhart Post Register. Political ads everywhere.
So why is the Caldwell County’s newspaper censoring Dolcefino Consulting, refusing our money to help educate voters on the proposed 17- story garbage dump and where the politicians stand?
It is no secret we have been investigating Green Group for years for a landowner in Hempstead, exposing questionable engineering and secret political meetings. In Caldwell County, we can now prove that some county commissioners were chatting with Green Group even while spending taxpayer’s money to fight them in court.
We created a political flyer, and a full-page, non-partisan, informational advertisement designed specifically to let voters know where the candidates for Caldwell County Judge and Commissioners Court stand on the landfill.
We reached out to all the candidates for County Judge and Commissioners Court, either by phone, email or both, and asked them two simple questions.
If elected to office, would you vote for or against the 130 Environmental Park, and why?
The current Lockhart siting ordinance prohibits building a landfill on the proposed 130 Environmental Park site. If elected to office, would you vote to defend the ordinance as it’s currently written, why or why not?
We gathered their responses, and photographs, and called the Lockhart Post Register to verify the price, size and deadline requirements for a full-page ad.
Dana Garrett of the Post Register now refuses to run the ad and says he can’t tell us why. It does not endorse any particular candidate, but simply identifies their history and positions on the dump.
When we asked Mr. Garrett how we could change it, he hung up on us!
“Everyone knows a garbage dump in Caldwell County isn’t needed and will affect the health and safety of folks for years to come,” says Wayne Dolcefino, President of Dolcefino Consulting. “You would think the local newspaper would welcome diverse ads, but they don’t. Their bias is showing. The newspaper has been promoting the idea of a garbage dump. Wonder how much money they have made from the garbage guys?”
TELL THE LOCKHART PAPER CENSORSHIP ISN’T RIGHT.ELECTION-2018-LPR-ADVERT