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Frequently Asked Questions

Image of Closed Landfill Q: Why are the Councils of Governments (COGs) completing the Closed Landfill Inventory?
A: It is the law. In 1993, the Texas Legislature passed House Bill 2537, which required COGs to develop and include an inventory of closed municipal solid waste landfills in their regional solid waste management plans. As a first step toward addressing this legislative mandate, the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ, formerly the Texas Natural Resource Conservation Commission) contracted with Southwest Texas State University (SWTSU) to coordinate with the twenty-four COGs in Texas to begin locating known and suspected closed landfill sites. As a result of this initial inventory effort more than 500 sites were identified in H-GACís region. Estimated point locations were mapped for as many sites as possible and available historical information was compiled in a database for H-GAC. As a result of additional legislation in 1999 (Senate Bill 1447), COGs were required to carry the inventory effort to a higher level of detail and precision, where feasible. This detail focused on boundary determination.
Q: Why is the Closed Landfill Inventory important?
A: The Closed Landfill Inventory is important because it can help to identify areas of potential environmental risk. As garbage decomposes, it produces methane gas, which in high enough concentrations, can lead to explosions. Several years ago in the Austin area, an apartment complex built above an unknown landfill had to be evacuated because of a methane gas leak. Improperly engineered landfills may also be a source of groundwater and soil contamination.
Image of Closed Landfill Q: What happens when a closed landfill appears on the Closed Landfill Inventory?
A: Only the closed landfills that have exact boundaries or good estimations of boundaries will be deed recorded with the appropriate county clerk. If exact boundaries only are known, a letter will be sent to the property owner to notify him that a closed landfill has been identified on his property. The closed landfills with poor estimations of boundaries or unknown boundaries are not deed recorded and the property owner is not notified. The closed landfills remaining on the inventory are for informational purposes only.
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Q: Who is responsible for cleaning up the sites?
A: Cleanup was not included in the legislation. New legislation would have to be passed requiring cleanup of sites.
  Q: What happens if a closed landfill is identified on a piece of property but there never was a landfill?
A: There is an appeal process if a property owner wants to dispute the identification of a closed landfill on his property. The property owner may offer proof that the waste was removed from the site and/or he may sign an affidavit attesting that the property was never used as a landfill. However, the TCEQ ultimately makes the decision.
Q: What kind of development is allowed on a closed landfill?
A: For sites that are deed recorded, development is allowed, but limited. The limitation for development is due to the potential disturbance of the landfillís final cover or liner. According to the Texas Administrative Code, disturbance of the final cover or liner systems is prohibited. Some of these prohibitions include borings, piers, spread footings, foundations for light standards, fence posts, manholes, onsite disposal systems, and recreational facilities.
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Q: How do sites get on the Closed Landfill Inventory?
A: TCEQ compiled a list of sites based on data collected from complaints, inspections, and permitted facilities that were at least ľ acre in size.
Q: What are the characteristics of sites to be deed recorded?
A: Most sites that will be deed recorded are permitted facilities owned or operated by municipalities and/or private companies. There are a small number of sites that are unpermitted facilities that will be deed recorded.
  Q: Can H-GAC remove sites from the inventory?
A: No. H-GAC can recommend the removal of a site to TCEQ, but TCEQ will make the final decision. Adequate proof must be provided that documents the suspect landfill never existed.
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Q: Where can I find information on my County Clerk's office?
A: Most county clerks in Texas have websites with contact information or property information searches. Please click on one of the following links to access the appropriate County Clerk's website:

Austin County: www.austincad.org
Brazoria County: www.brazoriacad.org
Chambers County: www.chamberscad.org
Colorado County: www.coloradocad.org
Fort Bend County: www.fbcad.org
Galveston County: www.galvestoncad.org
Harris County: www.hcad.org
Liberty County: www.libertycad.com
Matagorda County: www.appraisaldistrict.net/countyappraisal.asp?county=Matagorda
Montgomery County: www.mcad-tx.org
Walker County: www.walkercountyappraisal.com
Waller County: www.txcountydata.com/county.asp?County=237
Wharton County: www.txcountydata.com/county.asp?County=2417

Image of Closed Landfill


This CLOSED OR ABANDONED MUNICIPAL SOLID WASTE LANDFILL INVENTORY was prepared from information furnished by the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality ("TCEQ"), permitting records on file with TCEQ and the Texas Department of Health, and from aerial photography and GIS data developed by H-GAC. The county map, individual site maps, and legal descriptions of the closed or abandoned municipal solid waste landfills represent TCEQ's and H-GAC's best judgment about the landfills' location, but neither TCEQ nor H-GAC warrants the accuracy, timeliness, or completeness of the maps or legal descriptions. Moreover, because TCEQ and H-GAC have inventoried only known municipal solid waste landfills, TCEQ and H-GAC make no representation about whether a specific tract of land may overlie an unknown municipal or other solid waste landfill.

Houston-Galveston Area Council - Solid Waste Management Program - December 2008