Treated sewage dumping could resume near West Texas border town

Staff Report

The Associated Press

SIERRA BLANCA, Texas (AP) - Residents in the West Texas town of Sierra Blanca are worried that the area might once again become a dumping ground for treated sewage after the state agreed to lease a large swath of land to a group that wants to resume spreading

sludge.

From 1992 to 2001, New York-based Merco Joint Ventures spread treated New York City sewage on about 18-thousand acres of the Mile High Ranch outside of town. The company went bankrupt in 2002, and Texas has since bought nearly one-hundred-thousand acres from

Merco's former owners. That's according to documents obtained by the El Paso Times under the state's Public Information Act.

In 2005, the state leased some of the land to the Texas Southwest Range and Wildlife Foundation, a group whose members were heavily involved in the project that first brought sludge to Sierra Blanca.

Foundation lawyer and lobbyist Susan Potts, who also represented Merco, said sludge dumping could create jobs and is recycling "in its truest form."

But some residents worry the sewage will hurt the environment and could make people sick.

A spokesman for the Texas Land Commissioner's office told the newspaper the state bought the land in part to provide new income for the Permanent School Fund, which helps pay for the state's share of public education in Texas.

The state also hopes to benefit from a mining project on the property.