Could landfill fight be nearing settlement?

HOUSTON The Blue Ridge landfill is on FM 521, just south of McCard. Allied Waste wants to expand it, but neighbors are worried that bigger trash piles will pose a health risk.

This basically means that both sides have agreed to sit down at the table and talk. Where those discussions might head, at this point is anyone's guess.

Allied Waste, the company that owns and operates the Blue Ridge landfill, is seeking a resolution with those opposed to its expansion. As a result, both sides have agreed to a 90 day delay in legal proceedings. Homeowner Mary Ross said, "I don't feel positive or negative about it. It's just a holding pattern."

Ross is one of the homeowners involved in the legal battle to stop the expansion. She says no one has yet seen any offer of compromise from Allied. All she knows is that she's still worried about the quality of life and health issues that so many fear an expansion would create.

Ross agreed, "It is definitely a NIMBY issue -- not in my backyard! Definitely!"

County commissioners say Allied wants to make the landfill 33% larger than it is. They have applied for a state permit allowing it to pile trash four times as high as it is now -- up to 170 feet.

Three television stations, including KTRK, have joined residents in their effort to stop that expansion. The news organizations saying the height would partially block the signals of their nearby weather radars, greatly impacting their ability to forecast storms.

Richard Lowerre, the attorney representing the stations, says both sides would save a lot of money by settling but he insists that, "There's no reason for the stations to settle if the result is they still can't use their radar."

Allied Waste wouldn't say what the terms of any settlement offer might be.

"It's never easy, whether you go to court or settle," said Gary McCuistion with Allied Waste. "It's always a difficult process. As far as whether we prefer that or not, as I said, it's always our preference to be friends with our neighbors and to try to be good neighbors rather than go to any kind of litigation."

Late this afternoon, the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality told Eyewitness News that it has cited Allied Waste several times since November for violations related to the operation of this landfill.

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