By Kathi Bliss
Caldwell County residents received a letter this week that is likely to cause quite a stir in the community.
The letter, an introduction from Green Group Holdings president Ernest Kaufmann, explains a project his company is undertaking, to develop more than 1,200 acres in rural Caldwell County as a multi-use development that will include not only an industrial park and wildlife support habitats, but also a solid waste management and recycling facility…
That’s right. A dump.
However, Kaufmann promises in his letter, the facility, to be known as the 130 Environmental Park, is not the same as landfills of the past and will be engineered to protect ground and surface water resources, and eventually provide green energy through the production of methane in the plant.
“The landfill site will be engineered to protect the resources in the area,” said Green Group Holdings vice president David Green on Monday. “We aren’t going to just dig a hole, dump in it and cover it back up.”
In fact, he said, the Green Group Holdings double-lines their landfill sites with leachate and low-permeability clay, and then pulls six inches of dirt cover over each day’s waste disposal. On a daily basis, Green said, the faci.lity expects to use an area only 100 x 200 feet, on a property that spans more than 1,200 acres.
“We aren’t going to come in and turn the whole property into a dump,” Green said. “We are going to commit, in writing, to using only 212 acres as landfill, over the entire lifetime of the facility.”
That lifetime, he said, will be from 30 – 50 years.
The site was chosen in large part because of its proximity to Austin and the Central Texas corridor, and because two of the major landfills in the area will reach their capacity and close within the next 5-8 years. However, Green offered assurances that refuse will be collected only from the local geographical area.
“We expect collection to be within a 50-mile radius,” he said. “That’s the sensible, with the cost of transportation and collection.”
The facility will also offer community services such as a recycling center, free large-item residential disposal and contributions back to the community.
“As a home-town guy, it turned out to be a great thing for Meriweather County,” said project manager Mack Reynolds, who grew up near Atlanta, Ga., where the Green Group Holdings operates a facility similar to the one planned in Caldwell County. “Of course, it was scary for all of us at first, because we just didn’t know about pollution, about the smell, but a few years in, it’s been the best thing that happened in a long time.”
Among those positive forces, Reynolds said, the Green Group Holdings leases space for a massive industrial park in their Meriweather facility, which is home to several international companies and has created thousands of jobs in the last two years.
It is the same plan, he said, for the 130 Environmental Park.
“We’re going to take the lead on recruiting the businesses for the industrial park, working in connection with the Governor’s Office,” said senior project manager Abbey Patterson. “These are businesses that look for the things we’re going to be able to offer, like the infrastructure, the methane production facility.”
The formula of multi-use space on a landfill site, they all agreed, has been successful for the Green Group in several areas throughout the country, not only in Meriweather. They have facilities in Kansas, North Dakota, Wyoming and Montana, and are planning another Texas facility in the Houston area.
The most important thing Kaufmann and his team want the people of Caldwell County to understand, they said, is the sort of investments they have already made into the project, and the type of investments they will continue to make.
“We’ve already invested over $1 million in this project,” Green said. “So we’re coming. We’re building. But we also want to make sure that we’re good neighbors and have a good relationship with the neighbors.”
Part of building that relationship comes with a promise to all property owners within a mile of their facility that, in the event they should attempt to sell their property and not receive an offer equal to their appraised value, the Green Group Holdings will make up the difference.
Additionally, they will commit to a host fee, potentially as much as $1 per ton added to the landfill, to invest back into the community through an agreement with the Commissioners’ Court. Those host fees, Green said, have been used by other host communities for a variety of things, including parks and recreation, community centers and building repairs.
“We want to find out what the community needs, and help how we can with the host fees,” Green said. “And even though we aren’t legally required to, we’re willing to commit to that in writing.”
Green said he expects to approach the Commissioners within the next 90 days to begin talks regarding the host agreement. The facility has begun the process of applying for the appropriate permits through the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ), a process which is expected to take two years or more.
The 130 Environmental Park is located at the intersection of SH-130 and FM 1185, on the northeastern corner, and extends eastward on FM 1185 to Homannville Trail.
Watch future editions of the Post-Register of follow us online at www.post-register.com for updates on this developing opportunity, and for notices of public meetings scheduled in connection with the development.