Building Waco’s Future: Landfill Planning

The following are questions gathered from the community in meetings, on social media and in conversations.  We are happy to respond to any other questions about this process, and in addition, there will be public meetings going forward to further address any concerns.

Last page update: November 2017

Kyle Deaver Guest Editorial
Waco Tribune-Herald, July 16, 2017

Malcolm Duncan, Jr. Guest Editorial
Waco Tribune-Herald, August 6, 2017

Weighing few options, more trash: Q&A with Waco leaders on landfill prospects
Waco Tribune-Herald, September 7, 2017

Political battle over Waco landfill heats up with charges of misinformation
Waco Tribune-Herald, September 30, 2017

Information on public participation in the environmental permitting process (from Texas Commission on Environmental Quality)

About our current landfill (Permit #948A, 11400 Old McGregor Road)

  • The City of Waco landfill has been located off Highway 84 for decades. Ownership was transferred to the City of Waco in 1986. It is a Type I Municipal Solid Waste landfill that receives approximately 288,000 tons of waste per year for disposal. (That's approximately 26,182 trash trucks per year.) The landfill is located at 11400 Old McGregor Road off Highway 84. It is a 237.31 acre property with a 'working face' of .38 acres.
  • A full size ¾ or 1 ton pickup can hold 2-3 cubic yards of garbage, slightly rounded, weighing about 500 lbs.  That means the landfill accepts the equivalent of over 1 million pick-up truck loads per year!
  • Commercial waste from inside the city limits (hauled by City of Waco and some private entities) accounts for about 20% to 25% of the total waste brought to the current landfill.
  • Residential waste is hauled by the City of Waco and amounts to 43% of the total waste, amounting to nearly 65% of the total waste coming from Waco residents and businesses.Our landfill serves an 11 county region.
  • Over the last five years, less than 5% of the waste hauled to 948A was from outside of McLennan County.
  • Learn more about how a landfill works from the EPA.
  • Learn more about our landfill.

Why is the City of Waco pursuing a new landfill?

  • The current landfill’s capacity has only about seven years of life remaining (as of June 2017, if the amount of trash being hauled into it does not increase).
  • Without a new landfill, the City of Waco would have extreme operational challenges and increased costs. This would jeopardize local control of a core city service, having long-term negative impacts on our community.
  • Planning ahead is imperative in order for the City to have an adequate site in full operation before the life of the current landfill runs out.

What do you look for in a new landfill site?

  • Selecting a piece of property for a landfill is complex. Key site considerations include: size of site, suitable geologic formations that are protective of ground and surface water; environmental considerations; highway access, including load limits on roads and bridges; distance from Waco, and other considerations that may affect rates.
  • The TCEQ also has requirements for selected sites such as: floodplains, wetlands, seismic impact zones, and distance to airports, geology and hydrogeology.

What has the City done to extend the life of the current landfill?

  • We have and continue to improve our compaction ratios to make the space last.  The more compaction, the more waste we can fit into our landfill space.
  • We currently offer city-wide recycling and waste diversion practices.
  • We issued two different requests for proposals (RFP’s) for innovative waste to energy projects to reduce the volume of waste. The proposals submitted were determined to be too costly and used unproven technology.

Can we increase recycling and extend the life of the current landfill?

  • Yes. Curbside recycling and yard waste diversion for residents have diverted an estimated 19,000 tons of solid waste annually, allowing the City to extend the life of the landfill by several years.
  • Curbside recycling participation rate in Waco is about 35%. (Note: this estimate is conservative because some Waco residents recycle household items at work, at school and at the drop-off center or at a local recycling business).
  • Waco has an exemplary recycling program for residents – a curbside program, a 95-gallon blue cart, delivered to your residence and helpful information all available at no charge to the customer. We also have a drop-off center to accommodate recyclables not taken at curbside, such as glass containers and large metal items.
  • Many of our local businesses, schools, and industries have very active recycling programs as well.
  • Unfortunately, recycling alone will not avert the need for a landfill as it does not make enough of an impact.
  • NOTE: Effective October 1, 2017, there is no fee for a second blue recycling cart for residential curbside recycling. This means that residents can have two blue recycling carts at no extra charge.

Do mosquitoes pose a threat at the current landfill?

  • No, the City’s current landfill properly controls mosquitoes and standing water, the breeding ground for mosquitoes, per EPA and TCEQ regulations.
  • Additionally, disease-carrying mosquitoes can only fly, on average, 150 yards from their hatch-out site, and therefore, do not pose a threat to nearby residents. (Source: McLennan County Public Health District).

Has the City ever disposed of sewage at the current landfill?

  • No. Between November 2015 and March 2016, the bio-solids dryer at the Waco Metropolitan Area Regional Sewerage System (WMARSS) was offline for rehabilitation.  This dryer normally turns processed biosolids that come off the plant’s belt press where the liquids are removed and the solids are pressed into fertilizer pellets that are used by area farmers.
  • During this time, we hauled the processed biosolids from the WMARSS plant to the landfill. This was NOT raw sewage.  It was fully-treated and processed.  All procedures and activities were in accordance with TCEQ regulations and this biosolids hauling project was included in the WMARSS annual sludge report to TCEQ.  It was hauled Monday through Friday.
  • According to our records, approximately six loads a day, of processed biosolids were hauled.  This disposal was also reported in the TCEQ MSW Annual Report.

New Landfill Site Selection Planning

Is a new site under consideration?

  • A property, owned by the City of Waco, along Old Lorena Road (FM 2837) is currently under consideration for the location of the new landfill.
  • Staff reviewed available options and determined that this site is an ideal parcel of land because its underlying geology— an outcropping of shale and clay—makes protecting groundwater simple and relatively cost effective.
  • If selected by City Council, the proposed 290-acre site, which is slightly larger than the current 237-acre site, will have a generous buffer that separates it from neighboring homes and businesses and allows for convenient access to haulers and residents.
  • Other landfill site options are also under consideration. City staff has presented, and will continue to present, other options to City Council in the coming weeks.
  • Any site selected will be permitted as a new landfill by the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ) in full compliance with all TCEQ rules and regulations.

Is the potential site at Old Lorena Road an expansion of the current landfill?

  • NO. The current landfill will be closed through a State regulated process regardless of where the new site is selected to be located.  The City has no plans to operate two landfills.
  • Possibilities for the old site could include a future public park and trail system or another amenity for the community. This has been successfully accomplished in many other cities.

Has the City expanded the landfill in the past?

  • In 1987, the City of Waco filed an application for a permit with the TCEQ to expand the current landfill, 948A, by 200 acres and a lawsuit was filed by a neighbor.  The City agreed not to expand the landfill beyond its current boundaries.
  • The City never agreed to not permit a new landfill; in fact they approved the settlement with Ms. Glaze with the understanding future permits would be needed, as heard in this Waco City Council recording from September 1992:

(Mayor Robert Sheehy, Sr., and Councilmember LaNelle McNamara, District V, in discussion.)

Why not consider a site further from town?

  • The Waco City Council has asked staff to review other options for the location of the new landfill and bring those back to council for consideration, while still assessing the Old Lorena Road site.
  • Sites under review that are miles away from the center of town would require a transfer station.  Common in some cities, this is where trash is transferred to another high-capacity, long-haul vehicle to be transported a greater distance.
  • Transfer stations require additional staff; different trucks and other equipment, which will likely increase rates.

How do you plan to protect water quality now and for any future landfill sites?

  • The current landfill (948A) is protected by a natural geologic barrier of at least 600-feet of natural shale bedrock directly below the site, physically separating it from groundwater.  In addition to the natural geologic barrier, a constructed liner also directly underlines the site. This barrier, in combination with many other features, such as multiple stormwater protection berms, isolates the trash from the surrounding soil and prevents pollutants from passing into the groundwater or running off onto surrounding areas.  These protective features prevent, water that comes into contact with trash from entering Cloice Creek or any other waterway that drains to Lake Waco.
    This is accomplished by:
  • Covering the waste multiple times every day.
  • Covering the landfill slopes with additional soil.
  • Directing the run-off to engineered detention ponds.
  • Routinely inspecting the surface water management system to ensure that the system is properly functioning consistent with TCEQ requirements.
  • Note: The proposed new landfill, if located at the Old Lorena Road site, has the natural geologic barrier. Any newly constructed areas of the current or proposed landfill will be lined as required by environmental regulations and permits.

Are there any violations of water quality on the current landfill site?

  • Based on recent sampling by the TCEQ, the lab results showed no pollution.
  • Additionally, the City samples groundwater from up-gradient and down-gradient wells on the landfill property semi-annually; we provide the data to TCEQ as per our permit requirements.  The landfill also has a stormwater permit and operates in accordance with the TCEQ permit and regulations.
  • (Note: There are other areas upstream and downstream of the landfill that drains to Cloice Creek.)

Will a new landfill next to the current site increase odors in the area?

  • The City of Waco takes the necessary precautions to prevent and eliminate odors in the community. The City is actively investigating complaints of odor near the current landfill site. Reviews from TCEQ have found no direct correlation between the odor and the current landfill.
  • Wherever the City constructs a new landfill, the TCEQ permit will require an odor management plan which requires daily cover of wastes, identification of wastes requiring special handling and immediate covering, as well as other actions to address any possible odors.

Will the Old Lorena Road site affect the McGregor Airport?

  • If the Waco City Council should select the Old Lorena Road site, TCEQ regulations require that the airport and the FAA be notified of the permit application for the landfill site.  TCEQ will evaluate the proposed landfill to determine its compatibility with the airport. 
  • Location prohibitions do not apply, as the site is greater than 10,000 feet from the McGregor Airport, which does not have regularly scheduled passenger service.
  • A study is required by the TCEQ permit process and FAA will be notified but there is no prohibition.

Will the proposed site at Old Lorena Road increase highway traffic?

  • The number of trucks is dependent on volume of trash, not the location of the landfill.  The traffic route to the landfill will change if the Old Lorena Site is selected.
  • There is an overpass planned for the intersection of Speegleville/Old Lorena Road that would further help traffic on Highway 84 in the future.
  • As part of the permitting process with TCEQ, a traffic impact study will be needed.

What are the next steps in the process?

  • The Alternative Site Review has been considered by the City Council. The City Council will consider that information in its decision-making moving forward.
  • The City will host a public information meeting on October 10th.
  • Once a site is decided on by City Council, the assessment of that site and development of a TCEQ permit application takes about two years. The entire permitting process will take roughly four to five years.
  • During the permitting process there will be ample opportunity for public engagement and comment.
  • We will be providing updates to the City Council as needed during the process.

Other Information

City of Waco Presentation, March 2, 2017
Neighborhood Association Meeting

Kyle Deaver Guest Editorial
Waco Tribune-Herald, July 16, 2017

Malcolm Duncan, Jr. Guest Editorial
Waco Tribune-Herald, August 6, 2017

Weighing few options, more trash: Q&A with Waco leaders on landfill prospects
Waco Tribune-Herald, September 7, 2017

Political battle over Waco landfill heats up with charges of misinformation
Waco Triibune-Herald, September 30, 2017

100-Year Floodplain Map

Information on public participation in the environmental permitting process (from Texas Commission on Environmental Quality)

Questions? Feel free to contact us here.

Watch 'Our Landfill & Its Future' produced by the Waco City Cable Channel (WCCC.TV)