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