Lewisville officials announced this week that an agreement has been reached in a federal lawsuit alleging hazardous pollutants being released at Camelot Landfill. Under terms of the agreement, the landfill operator will take steps to mitigate and remove the suspected contamination that Lewisville officials believe threatened the North Texas water supply.
An Agreed Final Judgment was filed yesterday in the lawsuit, City of Lewisville v. City of Farmers Branch, et al (cause no. 4:12-CV-00782) pending in the Sherman Division of the federal District Court for the Eastern District of Texas.
Under terms of the agreement, Camelot Landfill agreed to take action to stop the leakage of hazardous pollutants from the landfill into the adjacent groundwater that is directly connected to the Elm Fork of the Trinity River. The defendants agreed to:
(1) Construct a slurry wall to block the movement of hazardous pollutants from the landfill, and
(2) Construct and operate a leachate removal system to collect liquids from within the landfill and deliver them to a treatment system.
The Agreed Final Judgment resolves litigation filed by the City of Lewisville in December 2012 under the imminent and substantial endangerment provision of the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act, the federal environmental law addressing hazardous waste handling and disposal and landfill construction and operation. The suit was filed due to detection of hazardous chlorinated hydrocarbons and heavy metals in monitoring wells located outside the landfill and adjacent to the Elm Fork. In the suit, Lewisville alleged that such leakage posed an imminent and substantial endangerment to drinking water supplies of Lewisville, Dallas and other North Texas communities that draw water from the river downstream of the landfill.
“We believe this order addresses the immediate contamination problem associated with Camelot Landfill,” said Lewisville Mayor Dean Ueckert. “We now need to move forward and get these protective measures built and operating. But we also need to remember that this lawsuit was only about one of a number of issues regarding this landfill. We are working to address them as well.”
Among the issues remaining to be resolved is a request by Camelot Landfill for state approval to dramatically increase the size and height of the landfill. Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ) is conducting a technical review of an application to expand the Camelot footprint by 38.5 acres and to increase landfill height by more than 200 feet.
At a public meeting held by TCEQ in October 2012, more than 500 residents of Lewisville, Carrollton and Castle Hills spoke in strong opposition to the request. More than 600 comments have been posted to the TCEQ website related to the permit request, nearly all in opposition.
City leaders in Lewisville and Carrollton have publicly opposed the permit request since it was submitted in March 2012. That opposition continues despite the agreement reached in the federal lawsuit.
“The city remains concerned about the proposed expansion of Camelot Landfill,” said Lewisville City Attorney Liz Plaster. “This agreed judgment in no manner affects the ability of the city to oppose the expansion or to assert its police power jurisdiction over the landfill, which lies within our city. These issues will be heard in proceedings before the State Office of Administrative Hearings and, if necessary, in state district court.”
While located in Lewisville, Camelot Landfill is owned and operated by the City of Farmers Branch and receives solid waste collected in that and other cities. It generates millions of dollars in revenue for the City of Farmers Branch, which provides free garbage collection service to its residents but no curbside recycling program.
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. Despite applying in 2012 for a state permit to expand, Camelot has not yet applied for city approval to allow for the increased land area and landfill height being sought.
The federal lawsuit was filed on behalf of the city by Blackburn Carter, a Houston-based law firm.
“This agreed judgment is beneficial to all users of water from the Elm Fork of the Trinity River,” said attorney Jim Blackburn. “This agreed judgment sets an important precedent. To the best of my knowledge, this is the first time that a Texas city has gone into federal court and obtained an order forcing the cleanup of a landfill that was leaking hazardous waste. I am proud to represent Lewisville and help obtain this important result.”