01/30/17 1:45pm

Map of TCEQ Shadow Creek Ranch study area

The city of Pearland’s Odor Task Force is hosting a meeting on February 8th to give some updates on the saga of the Shadow Creek Ranch stench, the Chronicle‘s Margaret Kadifa reports. The map above shows industrial sites noted by the TCEQ in the vicinity of the master-planned community during the environmental agency’s long-running search for the source of the odor. Early last summer the come-and-go smell was finally officially linked to emissions from the slowly rising Blue Ridge Landfill, which sits across FM 521 from the subdivision, just outside the Pearland border in Fresno, TX. The agency says that 81 investigations had been launched in response to more than 1,900 complaints from the neighborhood, as of January 1st; TCEQ started sending enforcement letters to the landfill in October, and a class action lawsuit on behalf of area residents was filed in November.

Map of industrial sites and air sampling locations around Shadow Creek Ranch: TCEQ

Blue Ridge Mountains
03/23/16 1:45pm

Shadow Creek Ranch aerial photo, Pearland, TX, 77584

What could be causing the mysterious unpleasant odor Pearland residents have been reporting through TCEQ complaint channels since August of last year — primarily from the Shadow Creek Ranch subdivision (shown above) between 288 and FM 521 south of Clear Creek? TCEQ’s Andrew Keese spoke with the Houston Chronicle recently about the 26 previous and ongoing investigations, which are triggered whenever a finger is pointed at a new possible emitter of the smell. So far, Keese says, no odors have been officially detected that qualify as a ‘nuisance condition’, but he encourages residents to use the TCEQ’s odor log form to help the search effort by describing “the precise character of the odor, [relevant] weather conditions, and times” when the smell is noted.

Before you ask, yes: TCEQ knows about the 60-ft tall mounds of garbage right across FM 521 from the subdivision, at Republic Waste Service’s Blue Ridge Landfill (visible in the bottom left corner of the above photo as a pinkish blob).  Pearland residents previously sought to keep the landfill from more than doubling in acreage and nearly tripling in height (and blocking the operation of several Doppler Radar stations in the process). The landfill (which started accepting garbage several years before Shadow Creek Ranch’s developers broke ground nearby) will eventually get to pile as high as the 170 ft. allowed by its expanded TCEQ permit — but per a 2009 settlement agreement with the city of Pearland it will have to wait until 2021 before rising to only 130 ft., and wait another 8 years after that to reach for its full vertical potential.


Sniffing Out the Culprits in Pearland
03/04/13 11:00am

COUNTING DOWN TO GARBAGE TIME IN WALLER COUNTY The fight over the dumping ground proposed for Highway 6 seems to be coming to a head, now that a draft of a state permit has been issued — despite, reports the Houston Chronicle’s Cindy Horswell, “a near record 6,000 emails and letters [sent] to the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality, urging the agency to deny the permit.” Waller County residents, reports Horswell, have until March 12 to respond to the draft that would allow the proposed 223-acre Pintail landfill north of Hempstead to go ahead; GreenGroup Holdings, which bought the property in 2011, doesn’t seem to have been moved by the residents’ opposition so far: “President Ernest Kaufmann contends the protest typifies the ‘not in my backyard’ syndrome that happens whenever his company tries to put in a new landfill. ‘Unfortunately, it’s the same argument that you hear wherever you go. It’s always about the groundwater and the smell,’ he said. ‘But our landfills are engineered to be very safe.'” [Houston Chronicle ($); previously on Swamplot] Image: GreenGroup Holdings

10/10/12 1:26pm

The city of Houston has applied for a grant to help it develop a “dirty MRF” (rhymes with “smurf”) — a recycling center that would sort and mine garbage, using an assortment of machines, scanners, and density separators to separate recyclables, electrical items, compost, and dry materials that could be resold. A materials recovery facility envisioned by sustainability director Laura Spanjian and chief development officer Andy Icken would be similar to one in Roseville, California, that opened in 2007 and “harvests” almost half the waste sent to it. You can follow along a kiddie-led tour of that MRF in this video:


02/07/12 12:13pm

NEW ROTATING GARBAGE TRUCKS WILL KEEP ON TOSSING YOUR TRASH Behold the new German-made Rotopress collection trailers, now making their North American debut — in Houston. Local refuse braintrust Waste Management is introducing the new vehicles in a pilot program here, before rolling them out to 4 other U.S. cities. The natural-gas powered tumblers hold 40 percent more waste than conventional collection trucks, are quieter, have fewer moving parts, and separate from their truck cabs, which the company can switch out and upgrade independently. The rotating drum helps distribute the load more evenly on the trailer, and mixes wet and dry materials, which the company tactfully says “reduces the amount of free liquid in the system.” That should result in fewer leaks and a less pronounced rotting-garbage smell. [GreenBiz] Video: Waste Management

07/12/11 1:09pm

WALLER COUNTY’S LOOMING WALL OF GARBAGE From a group opposed to the Pintail Landfill just proposed for the 723-acre Rainey Ranch property, a mile north of Hempstead: “The company’s plan for the property is to build an industrial park fronting on Highway 6 for approximately ¾ of a mile. Behind the industrial park, a system [of] 20 foot high berms will be constructed to hide the 215 acres of landfill behind. Neither [GreenFirst, LLC’s Oscar L.] Allen nor [Thad] Owings could or would say how many cubic yards of garbage is being planned for the life of the site or how high the solid waste will be piled up on the site. Some individuals have opined that the plan is to have the solid waste site rising to an elevation of over 130 feet. When challenged on his comment that ‘property values will not be affected,’ Allen would only shrug his shoulders in response. Neighbors believe that the mere rumor of such a development has damaged property values for up to 10 miles around the planned project, which would include Hempstead and the surrounding area. Allen praised GreenFirst’s existing Turkey Run Landfill, 45 miles south of Atlanta, Georgia, and claimed certain landowners have been offered all expense paid trips to visit the landfill in Georgia.” [Stop Highway 6 Landfill; more info] Landfill illustration: GreenGroup Holdings

05/11/10 1:39pm

COMMENT OF THE DAY: WHEN HOUSTON WAS RIGGED “The Astrodome is ~1 mile north of the old Pierce Junction Oil Field. Most of the area is industrial, but there are homes along the perimeter of the field where Glenn McCarthy, who later built the Shamrock Hotel, made his first millions. Here’s a link to a 1956 TIME magazine article about the field and issues regarding growth of Houston versus industrial development. If anyone reads the article, I believe the dump it refers to is now a golf course. There are methane candy canes all around it. This is to say nothing of the Humble area. If anyone can find any old aerial photos of Humble online, let me know. I’ve seen them in the past and would like to do an overlay of current use versus prior use.” [J Wilson, commenting on House Shopping in the Chemical Discount Zones: Finding Houston’s Less-Toxic Neighborhoods]

04/06/10 10:28am

NEW RULES FOR YARD WASTE After several delays, Houston’s new yard waste regime finally goes into effect this week. From now on, if you want city trucks to pick up your leaves and lawn goodies, you’ll need to put them in city-approved compostable bags. The 39-gallon bags cost 50 to 80 cents each — as much as 8 times the price of conventional plastic bags — but city officials claim the change will save $1.5 million a year in waste-disposal fees and divert 60,000 tons of material from local landfills. The money saved will be used to expand the city’s automated curbside recycling program, but nobody’s reporting how we’re possibly going to make up the landfill gap. Don’t feel like shelling out for the bags? The Solid Waste Management Dept. is encouraging thrifty homeowners and yard crews to adopt the complicated technique of “grasscycling” — leaving grass clippings on lawns — and to start their own composting programs. In a few weeks, the city will begin doling out fines of up to $2,000 to residents who put leaves and clipping into city garbage containers. [Houston Chronicle; where to buy]

06/01/09 12:03pm

You saw the video. Now comes the detail: OffCite has more on recent Rice University architecture grad Lysle Oliveros’s proposal for turning that putrid pile of garbage next door to Shadow Creek Ranch into an exciting outdoor playplace! The fun comes in 3 phases.

In phase 1, trash haulers would start a new pile with each year’s take, completing a mound every 12 months:

Each monument compared to the next would create an awareness of the massive amount of disposed consumer goods. For example, the 2008 “index” created by Hurricane Ike debris would have been 400 feet tall.

Too bad about the City of Pearland’s recent agreement with Republic Services limiting those piles to a mere 130 ft. Oh, well — just wait until 2029!


05/21/09 3:35pm

Shadow Creek Ranch residents worried that the Blue Ridge Landfill just across FM 521 would turn into a 170-ft.-tall mountain of smelly garbage can breathe deeply again, now that the City of Pearland has reached a settlement agreement with the landfill’s operator, Republic Services (formerly Allied Waste).

Among the most important changes: the landfill will be limited to its current height of 60 ft. for 12 more years. Will that be enough time for Shadow Creek Ranch’s homebuilders and Las Vegas developers to sell off whatever remaining inventory they own in the master-planned community? After that, the pile of trash will be restricted to hillock status, at 130 ft. tall — “for an additional 8 years.”

Also good for home sales: Garbage trucks will be banned from using Shadow Creek Parkway west of FM 521!

More details of the agreement from City Attorney Darrin Coker, quoted in The Journal of Pearland:


05/12/09 10:20am

That gonna-be-170-ft.-high pile of trash going up across the street from Shadow Creek Ranch? Nothing a little smart landscaping can’t handle. Rice architecture grad student Lysle Oliveros’s proposal for the Blue Ridge Landfill makes for a rockin’ video. And Houston needs a mountain, anyway.

Video: Richie Gelles

07/21/08 1:03pm

Rooftops and Sidewalk in Shadow Creek Ranch, Pearland, Texas

The contested case hearing for the proposed expansion of the Blue Ridge Landfill on the western edge of Shadow Creek Ranch has been postponed — to October or November at the earliest — reports Natalie Torentinos in the Journal of Pearland. But the the buzzards are already circling:

Like passing dark clouds, incomparable and scary odors have traveled through Jamie Lee’s neighborhood in Shadow Creek Ranch, the smell seeping through the garage, laundry, even the water faucet. “This morning at 8 a.m. I left to take my daughters to school, and I could barely breathe outside,” Lee said. “It was nauseating.” . . .

Additional issues are geology and drainage –regarding contaminated groundwater and increased flooding, respectively. The landfill is attracting scavenger animals such as vultures, seagulls and rodents. [Attorney Richard] Morrison showed pictures taken of buzzards perching on the roofs of several homes, located in Green Valley Estates north of the landfill.

Allied Waste wants its pile of trash to expand to 784 acres and reach a height of 170 feet. Current restrictions limit the landfill to 302 acres and 60 feet.

Photo of Shadow Creek Ranch: Flickr user Sean Brady [license]

04/20/07 9:59am

Some Other Landfill

Residents of Shadow Creek Ranch now have some unlikely allies in their fight to prevent an adjacent landfill from expanding into their, uh . . . airspace: TV weathermen.

That’s right: the real problem with Allied Waste wanting to expand its Blue Ridge landfill in Fresno from 302 to 784 acres—and increase its allowable maximum height from 58 to 170 feet—isn’t any toxic stench that might upset nearby residents, but the fact that it will block your TV newspeople from scaring you to death with alarming reports of giant hurricanes sneaking up on Houston from the Gulf.

That one-and-a-quarter-square-mile, 16-story tower of waste will block the Doppler radar installations of Channels 11, 13, and 26, which are located a few miles to the northwest. Sounds kinda picky, huh?

It may be too late for the weathermen to help new residents of the “#1 selling master-planned community in the Houston-Pearland Metroplex” stop their already smelly neighbor, since Fort Bend County and Missouri City have signed agreements not to oppose landfill-expansion plans. And TCEQ has already given its go-ahead to the giant heap of trash.

Seems it’s a little easier for developers to build towers outside Beltway 8—and you can build with cheaper materials, too.

Many residents of neighborhoods surrounding the landfill, such as Shadow Creek Ranch and Fresno, say what’s at stake for them is maintaining the value of their homes or their ability to obtain clean drinking water, and to maintain an acceptable quality of life in the face of what some believe will become at best a stinking nuisance.

. . . Allied has acknowledged, that in November 2005 a “statistically significant exceedance of barium was detected at the landfill.” The metallic element can act as a powerful nerve poison.

Detection of barium amounts to evidence the landfill already is leaking, [Environmental Attorney Richard] Morrison said in comments to TCEQ, and may threaten the drinking water supply in Fresno. He said more than 80 water wells are located within a mile of the proposed landfill expansion.

Allied Project Development Manager Gary McCuistion has stated that the company is “very confident” the increased presence of barium represents a naturally occurring event. [emphasis added]

After the jump, an aerial photo from the Shadow Creek Ranch website showing that pinkish, naturally occurring growth just across Almeda.