Bad Math Delays Decision on Toxic Dump in Laredo

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The war over a planned toxic waste dump near Laredo may drag on for at least 90 more days according to new court filings.

A letter from FEMA to Rancho Viejo Waste Management’s engineers, filed on Monday, highlights a number of problems with the information that the engineers provided to FEMA. The flood agency was supposed to issue new flood maps in November that could have spelled doom for the proposed dump by developer C.Y. Benavides and Rancho Viejo Waste Management.  The dump developer and Rancho Viejo have kept the fight going by asking FEMA to modify the flood maps based on information that Rancho Viejo’s engineers provided.

However, as highlighted by the letter from FEMA, Rancho Viejo’s numbers and calculations have some problems. In one portion of the letter, FEMA tells Rancho Viejo’s engineers that that some of the equations they used in their analysis were wrong. Another portion details the engineers’ use of incorrect elevations with some numbers being off by 15 feet. In yet another portion of the letter, FEMA says that the numbers that the engineers used were “unreasonably low.”

The new flood maps will confirm if too much of the site for the proposed dump falls inside of a 100-year floodplain. The previous set of maps issued by FEMA showed the planned dump would sit mostly in that dangerous zone and increase the flooding risks substantially for the surrounding area. The dump could bring toxic waste from Mexico and coal ash from around the country.

Dolcefino Consulting has been investigating the toxic Pescadito landfill and the threat to residents as part of a nine-year battle to stop it. The delays by FEMA have caused the court fight by dump opponents to be put on hold for the last 19 months.

The new delays will leave landowners, Webb County, and the taxpayers in limbo for up to three more months – not to mention that it will continue to cost the landowners and Webb County more money in legal fees. The City of Laredo and Webb County have both officially come out against the planned dump and this delay is yet another unwelcomed hurdle in a nearly decade long fight.

“If you tell me that you’re going to build a dump in a floodplain, you’re going to be taking in coal fly ash and other waste from Mexico and you’re going to run straight through the middle of town across rail lines, the answer is not only no but hell no,” former City Councilman George Altgelt told Dolcefino Consulting in September 2020.

“Enough is enough,” said Wayne Dolcefino, President of Houston-based Dolcefino Consulting. “It is time for the judges at the State Office of Administrative Hearings to put an end to this dump fight. The City of Laredo doesn’t want the dump. Webb County doesn’t want the dump. The taxpayers shouldn’t be forced to continue to foot the bill on a toxic dump that will benefit no one but C.Y. Benevides and Rancho Viejo.”

FEMA has told Rancho Viejo that if they do not receive the data required in the letter by April 29, 2021, their request to modify the flood maps will be suspended.

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