In late June, a Lewisville code enforcement officer discovered what at first appeared to be an illegal waste dump for asphalt roofing shingles, where the operators were charging roofing companies a fee to dump the materials. Although Lewisville staff were not aware of any TCEQ permit status, they knew that the site had no site permit or certificate of occupancy from the City of Lewisville. Eric Ferris, Director of Community Development says that the City has issued a stop-work order for the site.
The eight-acre property, located at 900 South Railroad Street across from the new DCTA train maintenance facility is an open field with concrete culverts lined up across the front almost as a makeshift fence. At the back of the property near a tree line, hundreds of tons of shingles stacked about 5 to 8 feet high cross the width of the lot. On one side, a huge pile of wooden pallets is stacked. The waste appears to be mostly asphalt shingles, but with other construction waste and bits of wood included.
Operated by Central State Shingle Recycling, LLC, the site was accepting source-separated roofing material waste to be recycled, mostly for the asphalt content. CSSR CEO Scott Yelton says the company operates by charging roofers less than what they would pay at a municipal landfill to dispose of the shingles and other material like wood and paper. The tipping fees cover the cost of sorting and handling the material, but the company makes its money by recycling the asphalt in the shingles for use in road construction projects. The company's website shows several locations in the DFW area, including one in the nearby town of Hebron.
View Shingle Recycling Facility in a larger map
City Requirements Must Be Met
Ferris confirms that the property is one of the few left in Lewisville zoned warehouse. This classification would mostly allow the use as a shingle recycling facility, because it is the only classification that would allow the unlimited outdoor storage. The problem, says Ferris, is that the operator has not followed the process required for any site development in Lewisville. Plats and site plans must be filed, permits issued, required development done, and a certificate of occupancy granted.
Yelton, for his part said that he had received verbal approval from staff at the permit office in City Hall, and that he had submitted a fire safety plan to the Lewisville Fire Department, who he says were satisfied that a hydrant was nearby.
Yelton says the site opened for business on June 13th, and accepted waste until the 18th. A city inspector showed up at the site on June 17th with a stop work order, but Yelton says the inspector crossed out the order, leaving the site open, but asking CSSR to attend a meeting at City Hall the following Wednesday with the Development Review Committee. The site was closed due to rain on the following Monday and Tuesday, and in the meeting with city staff, CSSR was told in no uncertain terms that they were shut down. A letter was mailed to Yelton the next day with a formal notice of the stop.
Ferris didn't want to go into too much detail on the case, which he says is an enforcement action, but he did dispute that the stop order was voided by the inspector. Rather, he says, the inspector crossed out some language on the order to clarify for CSSR what activities would still be allowed on the property.
CSSR is anxious to retrieve the materials from the site and take them to another of its recycling centers, but Yelton says that city staff threatened him with a $500 per day fine if he is caught on the property. Ferris clarified Friday afternoon that it was never the intention to keep Yelton off the property. "He can mow the grass, fix a fence. He can stand on the property - that's fine. As far as the material, he can load it up and take it out, but if he brings in one more load, we'll write him a citation." Ferris confirmed that the city has not to this point issued CSSR any citations.
CSSR retained a lawyer and met again with Ferris and Assistant City Manager Steve Bacchus the following week, but the city would not budge on requirements for an engineered plat and site plan and certificate of occupancy. Yelton said that he was told he would need to pave the 8 acres, install a masonry fence across the front, put in 40 feet of irrigated landscape buffer and a sidewalk. In an email earlier this week, Yelton said "We were very surprised by their ridiculous demands and unprofessional demeanor. We had no need for a building, were operating heavy equipment that would destroy pavement, had no need for an engineered site plan with no building, and no need to install landscape, mason fence, and a sprinkler system when they were currently expanding the road." Yelton says the site was formerly a pond, but has been landfilled, and is not suitable for putting any building on.
Ferris clarified the city's general development requirements, saying that a masonry fence would only be required if materials were stored within 25 feet of the front. A screening fence would be required around the material storage areas, and would need to be high enough to screen the material from view. Ferris said that a 10 foot buffer landscaped with trees is required, and that the amount of paving required is up to the developer, and that aside from a required driveway, the developer could just pave the drive aisles between the storage areas.
In North Texas, each year when hail storms roll through, hundreds or thousands of roofs need to be re-shingled. This results in many truckloads of the old asphalt shingles being taken to area landfills. According to CSSR, 20% of a shingle is asphalt (also known as bitumen), 60% of the shingle is mesh or fiber, and the rest is just aggregate stone - all of which can be recycled, and sells for about 1/10th of the price of virgin asphalt, which comes from natural deposits like the Dead Sea, or as the residue of petroleum refining.
Asphalt has no impact on the environment in terms of water runoff, as evidenced by its wide usage as road paving material, and the fact that it covers all of our roofs. Although shingles will burn, they are designed to resist ignition because of their residential use. Yelton says shingles in a pile are nearly impossible to ignite.
The recycled shingles are usually shredded and melted in to the asphalt concrete mixes used to pave roads. Yelton says the recycled material actually makes for a stronger road surface due to the mixture of fiberglass that prevents cracking and distortion. The Railroad Street facility would not be shredding the material, but rather would be accepting clean truckloads directly from roofers, then using a trommel to separate the shingles from wood, paper, or metal that might come in. The material would then be baled and trucked out.
Yelton says that the loudest piece of equipment runs at 85 decibels, which is less than the noise from S.H. 121 Business that runs near the site.
Generally, permits or registrations are required by the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ) for any solid waste processing facility. But in the State of Texas, recycling facilities that deal in non-hazardous and non-putrescible materials like shingles are generally exempt from TCEQ permitting and registration requirements, although they are required to follow certain regulations and keep certain records. Exempt operators must file a Notice of Intent (NOI) with TCEQ in order to operate. Sites that accept combustible material (such as shingles) are also required to maintain financial assurance so that that the site could be cleaned up even if the operator goes defunct. Yelton says that CSSR filed its NOI on June 6th, received a favorable inspection by TCEQ, and put up an insurance policy to cover any cleanup.
We looked up CSSR in TCEQ's complaints database, and found that on June 17th, a complaint was filed with TCEQ against the operation, and a TCEQ investigator conducted an investigation on July 6th. Oddly, TCEQ's records show that CSSR became a "customer" on July 6th, a full month after the date on which Yelton said CSSR filed its NOI for the Railroad Street location. Other records filed with TCEQ show a start date of 7/29/2011 for its Blue Mound and Carrollton (Hebron) sites. The complaint's status is "closed" and there is no additional information available.
City Could Require Property Owner to Clean
CSSR currently has the Railroad Street site under a one year lease with a $300,000 purchase option. The owner of the site is Jimmy D. Battson. Ferris says that if CSSR fails to either obtain a permit or remove the materials from the site within a reasonable amount of time, the City could go after the property owner to require the cleanup.
CSSR Says Lewisville Missing Out on Tax Revenue and Jobs
Yelton asserts that the City of Lewisville is missing out on major sales tax revenue since the site has been put on hold. CSSR expects to sell 400,000 tons of recycled shingle material through the site, at prices up to $60 per ton. With sales up to $24 million, 70% of which are taxable, the city's current 1.25% sales tax would net $210,000 to the city alone, with the remaining 6.75% going to the State of Texas and DCTA; not bad for a city where the annual total sales tax revenue is about $18 million.
Yelton says he expects the site would employ 18 full-time employees, with some seasonal fluctuation, and up to 40 employees when processing begins.
Although the plan was to purchase 35 acres along Railroad Street and put the company headquarters just South of the facility, Yelton says that's off the table now because he doesn't feel like the City has been cooperative. In an email, Yelton stated: "This situation has not been good for either CSSR not the City of Lewisville. The real losers are the citizens of Lewisville and the Environment, for now. We can prove a sales tax revenue generation of nearly 1 million dollars annually once the facility is fully operational. " Yelton suspects that the City may be pushing back on his type of business because in diverting material from the city's landfills, the City could lose money from the landfill host fees.
For the City, Ferris said that the city's actions had nothing to do with the type of business. "Every day, companies big and small come to us and bring their site plans. If someone wants to follow codes and processes, we're here to help; otherwise we're an enforcement agency," said Ferris in a phone interview Friday. Ferris said that although communication had been difficult, the city staff were willing to work with CSSR. Each Wednesday, key city staff involved in permitting for development and building come together as the Development Review Committee. There, Ferris and others like the assistant city engineer, the economic development director, and the fire marshal offer free 30 minute meetings with developers for one-stop shopping on what the city will require for a given plan to go forward.
Yelton says he still wants to use the site, and that he has hired an engineer and will meet with the City again to see how to go forward.