Lewisville Leader > News
Lewisville files suit against Camelot Landfill
On Wednesday, the city of Lewisville filed a lawsuit seeking to halt the expansion of Camelot Landfill, alleging it poses an environmental and health hazard.
Lewisville filed the lawsuit in federal court. It states that the landfill is in direct violation of several items from the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA). The RCRA is meant to solve problems related to landfills, and it gives citizens the right to enforce it by suing violators directly. RCRA's primary purpose is to "reduce the generation of solid and hazardous waste and to insure the proper treatment, storage and disposal of solid and hazardous waste in order to minimize the present and future threat to human health and the environment."
The city's lawsuit states that the owner and operators of Camelot Landfill, Farmers Branch, "have contributed and are contributing to the past and present handling, storage, treatment, transportation or disposal of solid or hazardous waste, which may present an imminent and substantial endangerment to health or the environment."
"Our primary reason to file was to ensure compliance with water standards," said James Kunke, community relations and tourism director. "There are problems that we believe need to be fixed, and we tried other avenues, but this was always an option when it comes to defending our residents."
The lawsuit requests that the federal court stop operations at Camelot Landfill until the environmental problems are fixed. Kunke said Farmers Branch now has 21 days to answer the lawsuit.
Within the lawsuit, Lewisville alleges the following:
* Farmers Branch's actions have contributed to and are contributing to the release of hazardous pollutants from the Camelot Landfill into the Elm Fork of the Trinity River.
* Farmers Branch has violated and is violating regulatory provisions RCRA.
* Lewisville alleges that the manner in which the Camelot Landfill is operated constitutes an "open dump" in violation of RCRA.
* Lewisville alleges that the Camelot Landfill is not monitoring the "uppermost aquifer" and lower water bearing stands in violation of the groundwater monitoring requirements of federal regulations for the operation of a sanitary landfill and seeks injunctive relief to address this situation.
In addition to other area cities, Lewisville receives a "significant portion" of its drinking water from the Elm Fork of the Trinity River downstream of the Camelot Landfill.
In compliance with the RCRA, Farmers Branch constructed a series of monitoring wells around Camelot Landfill in order to monitor the groundwater. There are three monitoring wells located on the south side of the Camelot Landfill between the landfill and Elm Fork of the Trinity River. Since 1996, the systems showed the presence of contaminants in concentrations exceeding groundwater protection standards. In 2010, the system was changed, with the approval of the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality, to state that certain parts of the system would now be known as "observation wells," even though the wells were still showing signs of contamination.
The lawsuit states that as early as 1998, arsenic levels that exceed groundwater protection standards were detected in one of the wells. According to the U.S. EPA, arsenic has been linked to cancer of the bladder, lungs, skin, kidney, nasal passages, liver and prostate. In addition, the lawsuit states that Trichloroethylene (TCE) levels that exceed standards were seen as early as 1996. According to the U.S. EPA, some people who drink water containing TCE in excess of the maximum contaminant level (MCL) for many years could experience liver problems and may have an increased risk of contracting cancer.
The lawsuit also states that dichloroethylene (DCE) was detected, which may cause liver problems.
The waters of the Elm Fork of the Trinity River are directly connected to the areas where the toxins were detected, according to the lawsuit. The water found within the systems is beneath the surface of the land and therefore is not classified as "groundwater" but is instead "water of the United States" because of its direct connection with the Elm Fork of the Trinity River.
The lawsuit states that "a landfill groundwater monitoring system is required to be constructed so as to monitor the uppermost aquifer lying beneath the landfill." It also states that the monitoring system only monitors water of the Elm Fork of the Trinity River and not the "uppermost" aquifer.
Farmers Branch city officials have claimed that the detected contamination outside the landfill is from landfill gas. However, Lewisville city officials disagree and instead allege that the presence of contaminants is explained by "failure of the old bottom and/or side liners in the landfill, allowing the contaminated leachate to escape from the landfill into the adjacent soils and/or water."
Addressing the problem
Beginning in 2004, Camelot Landfill studies have been made to evaluate the contamination found in monitoring wells outside the landfill. The studies show that the contamination detected comes from the Camelot Landfill. According to the lawsuit, Camelot Landfill supporters believe that capturing landfill gas will address the groundwater and/or river contamination problem.
Even though landfill gas is now being collected and treatment of the water in the ground adjacent to the contaminated wells has occurred, contaminates still remain.
So far, Lewisville has not detected any "hazardous constituents" in its drinking water supply. However, city officials are concerned that the wells near the landfill continue to be contaminated with hazardous constituents. Officials believe that both the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ) and Farmers Branch have had "more than adequate time" to address the situation.
According to the lawsuit, Lewisville officials felt that "the time has come for decisive action that has not been proposed and/or implemented by defendants [Farmers Branch] and that needs the oversight of a federal court."
In October, the TCEQ held a public meeting to receive comments on the proposed expansion of the Camelot Landfill in Lewisville. About 500 people -- including residents from Lewisville, Castle Hills and Carrollton -- attended the meeting to demonstrate their opposition to the permit request.
At the October meeting, Lucas Ryan Lovett, a Lewisville resident and a member of Boy Scout Troop 9168 in Lewisville, said this situation has put him in a position he is not used to.
"I strongly urge you to reject this proposal and work for a smarter solution that will cause less harm to our environment," Lovett said. "As a teenager, I'm used to adults telling me that something is a bad idea. So thank you for this opportunity to tell adults that this is a bad idea."
City leaders in Lewisville and Carrollton spoke in opposition to the permit request, citing a variety of environmental and procedural concerns. In addition to opposing the permit, on June 14, Lewisville submitted a formal "notice of intent to sue," detailing concerns about contamination escaping from the facility and setting the stage for a federal lawsuit to address those concerns.
During the public comments of the October meeting, Carrollton mayor Matthew Marchant said that the growth of the region itself is enough of a reason for this expansion to be denied.
"The conditions surrounding this site have materially changed since the TCEQ last issued a permit on this property, and there are now thousands of Carrollton and Lewisville residents and businesses that will be directly affected by the expansion permit," Marchant said. "These residents and businesses planted their lives in this area based on the existing regulatory structure that is in place, which provides for a maximum useful life of roughly 20 more years. If this expansion permit is granted, it will result in more than 100 years of additional landfill activity, and 202 more feet of visual blight in an extremely dense, urban area."
Camelot Landfill is owned and operated by the city of Farmers Branch, but is located in Lewisville. It receives solid waste collected in Farmers Branch and other cities. The landfill was first permitted by the state in 1979 and opened in 1980 in a then-unincorporated area of Denton County. The 350-acre site was added to Lewisville as part of a larger annexation in 1987. It has continued operating under its existing state and city permits since that time. Camelot has not yet applied for a revised city permit to allow for the increased land area and landfill height.