After years of protesting a proposed landfill expansion in their neighborhood, residents of the historically Black Cy-Fair community known as Carverdale are celebrating the latest update in their contested case hearing.

Waste Management subsidiary USA Waste of Texas Landfills withdrew its application to expand Hawthorn Park Landfill on Jan. 11 “due to the realignment of strategic company priorities,” according to a statement from the company.

Marking a milestone

Lone Star Legal Aid’s environmental justice team represented multiple Carverdale residents in a contested case hearing last year.

“The Carverdale community has long been grappling with the adverse effects of the landfill, affecting residents' health, property values and overall well-being. The withdrawal of the permit application marks a significant milestone in the fight against the environmental and social injustices inflicted upon the community,” Lone Star Legal Aid officials stated in a Jan. 12 news release.

Houston Mayor John Whitmire, who advocated against the landfill expansion plans during his time as a state senator representing the Carverdale area, said this was a great victory for the community and a testament to the power of residents working collaboratively with their neighbors and elected officials.

“All you have to do is go look at the Carverdale community. It’s been neglected for years,” Whitmire said at a Jan. 11 press conference. “[It’s] a very proud community—a lot of history there. But you have open ditches, illegal dumping and then this very harmful landfill.”

The background

USA Waste of Texas Landfills submitted a permit in February 2021 with plans to expand the Hawthorn Park Landfill’s disposal area boundary by 32% and the maximum elevation by 63%. If approved, the facility would also be authorized to operate for another 46 years.

Community Impact previously reported about 3,000 households, 330 commercial buildings, 15 churches and five educational facilities were located within a 1-mile radius of the property. Residents began to organize protests events and meetings with elected officials—including Whitmire and Houston City Council Member Amy Peck—to voice their concerns.

While landfill officials at the time explained governmental entities held them to high standards, that did not stop residents from expressing concerns about their health and safety, decreasing home values, increasing traffic and debris, and a lack of transparency from the waste management company. Based on the expansion plans, the landfill was expected to take in up to 340,000 tons of waste annually once it was operating at full capacity.
The Waste Management subsidiary filed an application to expand Hawthorn Park Landfill in 2021. (Danica Lloyd/Community Impact)
The Waste Management subsidiary filed an application to expand Hawthorn Park Landfill in 2021. (Danica Lloyd/Community Impact)
What they’re saying

“We don’t get a lot of wins in this space, and so what you’re seeing is representatives at various levels of government working together with the community to get a corporation to do the right thing,” Harris County Attorney Christian Menefee said.

“We did everything we could to get to this point, and so we're just happy. We just hope that we never have to revisit this,” Carverdale resident Myra Jefferson said.

“As Houston's mayor, I promise to continue fighting for Houstonians whenever their quality of life is threatened. I look forward to working with the residents of Carverdale and other citizens to speak up about environmental justice issues that threaten our hardworking families. Everyone deserves a safe and healthy place to live,” Whitmire said in a news release.

What’s next

USA Waste of Texas Landfills officials said the expansion could be re-evaluated in the future.

Jefferson said she was “thrilled” to hear the news of the expansion application withdrawal but she and her neighbors will be prepared to continue their fight if the application resurfaces in the future.

In the meantime, Jefferson said she will work with Whitmire’s office on possible solutions to prevent future efforts to expand the landfill. She hopes to have the property ultimately be designated as a brownfield so positive development can take place in Carverdale.

“We hope they never try to return so that we can try to build this community,” Jefferson said.