Abatement officer orders church members to take items to landfill

Mauricio Julian Cuellar Jr., Alice Echo-News Journal

One local church is still under investigation for allegedly dumping construction and roofing material in a whole dug beside the church, which is also in close proximity to a water well.

Jim Wells County Abatement Officer Hector Zertuche said the church has been warned to remove the material to the local landfill, but as of Thursday afternoon, the trash still remained on site.

On Dec. 15, Zertuche began to receive phone calls from neighbors around the Kingdom Hall of Jehovah's Witnesses in the 3400 block of West Highway 44.

Residents said a backhoe was in use at the church, and that some members of the church were filling the hole with different trash items.

The neighbors, who were not identified by Zertuche, told the officer there was a water well less than 20 yards from the hole, and they were nervous about seeing the material buried so close to the water well.

Zertuche visited the church last week and notified church officials the material, comprised of roofing material and treated lumber, had to be disposed of properly in the San Diego landfill.

There was the possibility that over time, chemicals from the roofing materials buried there could seep into the nearby well, Zertuche said.

When Zertuche returned to the church, he noticed 20 to 30 parishioners at the site, working around the hole.

He said the parishioners were told by church leaders that it was O.K. to put items in the hole. Zertuche repeated again his commands to remove the trash properly to the local landfill.

Zertuche said the Texas Commissioner on Environmental Quality was called in to the site, and that they visited possibly on Sunday or Monday of this week.

No report has been released yet by TCEQ concerning the site.

Zertuche said the case is still under investigation by his office, and that no charges have been filed.