DeWitt Commissioners Court joins Nordheim in fight against waste sites

Sara  Sneath By Sara Sneath

March 24, 2014 at 6:03 p.m.
Updated March 23, 2014 at 10:24 p.m.

The DeWitt County Commissioners Court passed a resolution Monday opting for the relocation of two oil-field waste disposal sites proposed near Nordheim.

The resolution will be sent to the Texas Railroad Commission, where it will be added to more than 100 letters of interest the community has sent, urging the agency to use caution in its technical review of the proposed waste sites, DeWitt County Judge Daryl Fowler said in an email Monday.

"The position of the commissioners court is one centered on the spirit of a healthy community. Surface waste disposal sites and reclamation facilities are a new challenge. We know they have to go somewhere, but we join the citizens in Nordheim in their effort to relocate the two facilities," Fowler said in the email.

In addition to their environmental concerns, the commissioners court estimated the county would have to spend $3 million to build commercial-grade roads for the site.

"The cost of the two road projects should not be borne by the taxpayers of the county if they are limited to the benefit of one particular company," the resolution states.

One of the proposed sites is on Hohn Road, 1/4 mile east of Nordheim and less than a mile from the public school, according to the permit. The site would cover 204 acres, about the same size as the town itself.

The waste sites would receive oil-field waste materials from oil and gas exploration, drilling and production activities, including oil-based drilling mud and associated drill cuttings, according to the permit applications.

Permits for the two sites were denied once by the Texas Railroad Commission but have been amended and are once again in the review process. Letters from the Texas Railroad Commission denying the first applications state the sites were denied because the proposed facilities "may cause or allow pollution to surface or subsurface waters," and because the facilities were protested.

About 70 residents near the proposed facilities have banded together to form the organization Concerned About Pollution, or CAP. The group's president Paul Baumann owns property adjacent to one of the proposed sites.

"My water well and rent house are within 100 feet of the proposed land waste pond. I am very concerned that my water source and the land would be subject to contamination from the disposal products and runoffs," Baumann wrote in a letter to the Texas Railroad Commission.

Baumann said he thinks the Commissioners Court resolution will help the organization to get the waste site permits denied.

"We need all the help we can get," he said.

The mayor of Nordheim and the Nordheim school board have also drafted letters to the Texas Railroad Commission asking them to reconsider the proposed sites, Baumann said. A hearing date for the sites has not been set at this time, he said.

The resolution states, "The Commissioners Court of DeWitt County shares the same concerns for the health and safety of the school children and the citizens of Nordheim and Yorktown, as well as having additional concerns about the expense that building roads to such facilities would impose upon county taxpayers as a whole."



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