ANGLETON — Officials in several southern Brazoria County cities were left wondering what would happen to their recycling services Monday, as fire destroyed the center at the Seabreeze Environmental Landfill.
“It’s a 100 percent loss,” Brazoria County Fire Marshal Martin Vela said.
Employees reported the fire in the interior of the recycling center off of FM 523 about 10:30 a.m. Monday. No one was injured.
A large plume of black smoke filled the air as surrounding area fire departments worked throughout the late morning to extinguish the blaze, spraying the flames with water hoses through the side of the structure. Firefighters from Angleton, Clute, Jones Creek, Lake Jackson, Richwood and Oyster Creek responded.
Fire crews remained on scene throughout the day, dousing hot spots to ensure no flare-ups would happen, Vela said.
As firefighters continued attempts to contain the flames, the blaze did not seem to affect the company’s other operations as employees directed 18-wheelers, dump trucks and other vehicles toward the landfill to empty their loads.
The recycling facility is irreparable, though, as the fire burned a majority of the interior of the building, Vela said. The structural supports sustained severe damage from the flames.
Lake Jackson, along with other members of the Brazoria County chapter of the Clean Cities Coalition who have a contract with Seabreeze, were told that, because of the complete loss of the facility, the company won’t be able to process any materials and anything brought will be sent to the landfill, City Manager Bill Yenne said.
According to Seabreeze’s website, the recycling center was operated by 21 employees and was available to all Brazoria County residents. The recycled material would be unloaded in the facility, then separated into specific stations where it would be packaged for transport and sale.
The facility, operated by Brazosport Environmental and Recycling Services, accepted recyclable material such as newspaper, cardboard, plastic jugs and bottles, polystyrene containers, aluminum cans and tin.
Lake Jackson might have to suspend recycling services for the time being and will be looking into several options, including other locations and other resources to pick up recyclables, Yenne said. Officials will attempt to make a decision before the regularly-scheduled pickup days of Thursday and Friday.
“We just don’t know right now,” Yenne said. “It’s too fresh.”
The dilemma on what to do about the recycling pickups added to the list of things Clute City Council is trying to address, such as a proposed water and sewer rate increase, Clute City Manager Gary Beverly said. Council members don’t want to make a decision involving trash rates, but this situation could force their hand.
As with Lake Jackson and cities who have contracts with Seabreeze, Clute could temporarily suspend recycling until a solution is found, he said.
“We’re looking to figure what we can do,” Beverly said.
Representatives from Seabreeze Environmental Landfill did not respond to attempts by The Facts to contact them for comment, and a phone number to the center had a busy signal for hours after the fire.
Lake Jackson and other members of the Clean Cities Coalition of Brazoria County were largely responsible for helping to build the recycling center, Yenne said.
“It was built through a series of grants and payments the city made when Waste Connections Inc. first acquired the landfill many years ago,” he said.
The cities received a grant from the Department of Health to purchase the equipment, with the municipalities paying a monthly fee to offset the capital cost for Waste Connections Inc., Yenne said.
Seabreeze Landfill is owned by Waste Connections Inc.
Officials did not know the cause of the fire Monday, and will not be able to start an investigation until later this week, Vela said. Authorities have to wait for the chemical fumes to clear before beginning an in-depth search.
Fire officials did not have details Monday about exactly how much material was in the facility or how much was burned.
Vela said a majority of fires similar to the one at the recycling center typically are started by a combination of chemicals mixed together from the various material upon reception at the center or a small area of smoldering flames within the facility.
“That’s kind of what we had this morning,” he said.
Although chemicals from the recycled material have an environmental impact, the fumes were no more harmful than those coming from people burning household trash or clearing land, Vela said.
“It’s a low percentage compared to that,” he said.