Hearing set for Ruffino Hills

August 26, 2011 • Houston Chronicle

The Texas Commission on Environmental Quality has granted a request from Brays Oaks area residents for an administrative law judge to hear their concerns regarding Ruffino Hills Transfer Station’s application to amend its solid waste permit and expand operations.

The request was granted during the commissioners’ meeting Aug. 17 in Austin. The action refers the matter to the State Office of Administrative Hearings, an independent agency within the executive branch of state government.

“We were very pleased that TCEQ granted this hearing for us. I think there are issues we need to address further, and we’ll have that opportunity,” said Elaine Gaskamp, who lives near the transfer station and is part of the Coalition Against Ruffino Trash Transfer Station, known as CARTTS.

“It may be six or nine months down the line. Hopefully that gives us time to raise some more funds because we’ll need more to try and protect our quality of life out here,” she said.

The transfer station, a subsidiary of WCA Waste Corp., is near the intersection of U.S. 59 and Beltway 8.

It accepts non-hazardous municipal waste on its way to WCA’s landfill in Fort Bend County.

The amended permit would let the station stay open longer every day, starting at 3 a.m., and receive more than double the amount of trash daily, from 850 tons to 2,000 tons. Currently, the facility opens at 7 a.m. weekdays and 8 a.m. on weekends.

“Other than we wish this didn’t delay the process, we understand the need for the hearing,” said Mike Roy, general counsel for WCA.

CARTTS was originally formed in 2004 to protest the opening of the transfer station using a solid waste permit granted years earlier for the site, which is owned by the city of Bellaire and previously served as a landfill for Bellaire and West University Place.

The coalition includes nearby Glenshire and Braeburn Valley West neighborhood associations and multiple homeowners who are concerned how the expanded operation will affect them and their property.

TCEQ’s action recognizes CARTTS, Glenshire Community Association and the Raindrop Turkish House, which provides community programs at 9301 W. Bellfort, as “affected persons” in its deliberation of the Ruffino Hills permit amendment.

It also establishes relevant facts to be resolved in the hearing, including whether the amended permit is sufficient to comply with TCEQ rules on noise, nuisance odor, adequacy of roads and traffic, control of pests, protection of human health and safety and whether the station is compatible with nearby land uses.

The issues were raised during a public meeting on the permit in March. About 90 people attended, and most spoke against the expanded permit, which WCA regional vice president Stephen Seed said is needed to accommodate commercial customers.

Roy said WCA has conducted a sound study that ties noise complaints to Beltway 8, not the transfer station. The company also has responded to concerns about traffic and odor, he said.

Increased loads moving through the station won’t result in more waste on-site, he added.