By BOBBY HORN JR.
Plans to expand a waste processing facility on Little York Rd., which drew condemnation from residents and elected officials, have taken a dramatic turn.
Tom Page, president of Tap Inc., has asked the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ) to withdraw a permit request filed over three years ago.
On Jan. 30, 2008 Tap Inc., which does business as Big K, requested a Type V Municipal Solid Waste Permit Amendment to authorize processing of liquid waste.
When asked by the Northeast News why he withdrew the permit request, Page responded “I’d rather keep that confidential.”
State Rep. Armando Walle said that they have been monitor’s the situation. “My staff has been going door to door (to get their input). There have not been many complaints lately.”
Walle said that while there were some issues with liquid waste, he did not see any problems with Big K continuing their solid waste operations,as long as they do it within the scope of regulations.
“My hope is that they (Big K) will be good neighbors,” he added.
When the permit request was made public, citizens contacted Walle, and other elected officials asking that TCEQ held a meeting near the facility. At the meeting held in June 2009 more than 350 people crowded into a banquet hall on LIttle York, to make their concerns known.
Among the complaints were that the area constantly stinks from the waste being brought in by trucks and that Big K’s presence has caused property values to fall and that they were afraid that if the company were allowed to expand the problem would get only worse.
Big K has been in operation since 1999. Tom Page bought the facility in December 2003. In January 2008, he filed the application to expand the facility, add additional operating hours and expand into liquid waste collection such as restaurant grease. The facility is currently authorized to handle only solid municipal waste.
Walle was among those opposing the permit. “It always appears that our area gets the short end of the stick, Those odors can get pretty nasty when there is no power,” he told the group recalling the troubles after Hurricane Ike.
Page told the Northeast News that many of the complaints about smells, hours and traffic were really a result of activity at the adjoining business, USS or United Site Services, a company which he said is not owned or affiliated with Big K.
There was also a concern over Big K’s history of violations, documented in a letter to TCEQ from the Harris County Attorney’s office. Page admitted that there were violations in the past, many of which he inherited when he bought the facility and that he was making efforts to come into compliance.
Mark Hrbeck, an engineer hired by Big K to prepare the permit application, defended his client. He said that the issue over the grease was an “administrative misunderstanding” and that Page was unaware that it was happening until the City of Houston stopped the practice.
In 2009, the Harris County Attorney’s office had also filed an opposition to the permit request. They cited previous environmental regulation violations and well as the proximity to residents, businesses and churches.
Residents also challenged Big K, saying that the permit would mean heavier truck traffic on the road, with would make potholes that the taxpayers would have to pay to fix.
Prior to the meeting, the TCEQ had their own team of investigators examine the application and the facility to determine if the request met state environmental requirements.
“The permit meets all the technical aspects for compliance with TCEQ regulations,” said Ashley Wadzick, special counsel to the TCEQ Executive Director.
Page now says that he has more plans for the site. He said that he intends to contain the entire facility within two buildings. To do so, he said, would only required a City of Houston building permit.