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Residents complain of foul smell

Some West Odessa residents are complaining of headaches and nausea, but no environmental agencies are looking into the oilfield waste landfill that many say is contributing to the symptoms.

Joe Mendoza, 28, lives in the neighborhood just west of South Westcliff Road, and said the Tervita landfill looming over the residents sends strong fumes over all the houses.

“I work in the oilfield so I’m used to it,” Mendoza said. “But if you’re not used to it, it will make you sick.”

His mother is not yet used to it, Mendoza said, and she has headaches and becomes nauseous when the wind blows a certain way.

While Precinct 1 Commissioner Eddy Shelton and county environmental enforcement officers have called regulatory agencies about the problem, the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality and the Texas Railroad Commission have denied in emails their agency is responsible for such a complaint.

TCEQ spokeswoman Lisa Wheeler said in an email that they have not spoken with anyone from the county and that any complaints would fall under the railroad commission’s jurisdiction anyway, as they permit oil waste facilities.

Wheeler said the TCEQ has not received any air quality complaints about the facility.

Railroad commission spokeswoman Ramona Nye said in an email the facility is licensed with the commission, but that air quality concerns fall back on the TCEQ.

Nye also said Tervita facilities have been licensed with the commission since 1989, and filed a permit application two years ago to open additional disposal pits.

In the email, Nye said water quality is one thing that the railroad commission has jurisdiction over.

“To obtain a permit, applicants for this type of facility or any facility permitted under the RRC’s jurisdiction, must demonstrate the facility’s operation will not result in pollution of surface or subsurface water,” Nye said in an email. “This facility has three groundwater monitoring wells, and the most recent water testing lab results taken from these groundwater monitoring wells from January 2015 show no groundwater contamination.”

Related: ND officials investigating improper disposal of oilfield waste

Tervita was acquired this year by Republic Services Inc., and the Odessa facility is being run by Republic.

A Republic spokesman said in an email that the company has not received any complaints about the plant, but would take any such complaints seriously.

“The Odessa facility is a highly-regulated, non-hazardous landfill that has a history of compliance. The facility has served this community since 2006. In that time, the Odessa facility has not received an official odor complaint from regulators,” according to an email from Russ Knocke with Republic. “We believe that we are caretakers of our community, and the local environment. We are proud to create meaningful employment for more than 100 area residents. We remain committed to working with our neighbors and addressing any community concerns.”

Shelton said he can’t do much else other than forward the concerns to the proper authorities.

“Before I became commissioner, I didn’t really know who to go to (with problems),” Shelton said. However, he said the fact they’re speaking with each other is good. “Once together, they come up with a plan. There’s nothing wrong with that; that’s how communities get started.”

Mendoza and his family are not the only ones who notice the smell.

Jozanna and Jose Canelo, both 24 years old, said it’s affecting them and their 6- and 2-year-old daughters.

“My husband, it makes him sick because he says it’s hard for him to inhale,” Jozanna Canelo said. “It makes his stomach upset.”

Jozanna Canelo said both of her daughters have complained of headaches and stomach aches because of the smell.

“I want to know why they did it so close to homes,” she said.

Eli Aranda, 30, said he signed the original petition to keep the landfill from being built two years ago, but nothing came of it.

Aranda said he knew what it was going to be when it was first built, and he didn’t want it to come so close to the neighborhood back then.

“This is not good at all for us. That has H2S in it,” Aranda said, although he said whenever employees with monitors check the area, H2S levels are not high enough to register.

According to the Occupational Health and Safety Administration, H2S gas is a colorless, flammable and extremely hazardous gas with a “rotten egg” smell that occurs naturally in crude petroleum and natural gas.

Continuous low-level exposure or higher concentrations can cause a person to lose ability to smell the gas, according to the administration.

Ivan Carbajal, a 22-year-old man who lives in the neighborhood, said he started the original petition and has started a new one.

The original petition had enough signatures for the railroad commission to set a hearing for the group to come to Austin, but none of the residents made it to the hearing and the facility was allowed to be built.

Since that time, Carbajal said residents have noticed negative effects from the smell coming from the facility.

“A lot of our neighbors are saying they’re having breathing problems, like a cough,” Carbajal said.

Shelton said people who move out into the county often do so to get away from regulations, but that doesn’t mean it’s just a county problem.

“This is an environmental issue, which concerns everybody,” Shelton said. “Anything that creates a hazard to their community, to their way of life, nobody should expect that.”

Tervita facilities in the past have received complaints from neighbors, such as families in Rostraver, Penn., who sued the facility in 2013, according to a story by the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review.

The families complained that a “terrible, terrible smell” wafted over the homes, according to the Tribune-Review.

 

(c)2015 the Odessa American (Odessa, Texas)

This article was written by Jon Vanderlaan from Odessa American, Texas and was legally licensed through the NewsCred publisher network.

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