KSAT Defenders uncover illegal dumping near river in Karnes County

County's road, bridge chief to blame


KARNES CITY, Texas – Karnes County has agreed to remove about 30 dump truck-loads of debris that was dumped under a bridge over the San Antonio River on authority of the county's road and bridge supervisor.

The bridge is known as Wofford's Crossing and underneath it, sometimes jutting out above the river, is everything from cement, tile, rebar and wood to other debris.

Nearby resident Robert Busselman hesitated to describe it. "I can't say that on camera, really, but it's a dump," he said.

Busselman said the county trashed a treasured place. "We spend a lot of time in this river," Busselman said. "We fish in it. All of us grew up on this bridge here."

The county worker's misguided dumping was a well-intended effort to shore up bridge supports.

Karnes County Judge Barbara Shaws said the Texas Department of Transportation has indeed acknowledged that work does need to be done.

However, Steven Schauer, of the San Antonio River Authority, said this is not the way to do it.

"All this does pose a flooding hazard for that area," Schauer said. "It's not really going to protect the bank from erosion."

He said it is also a safety hazard for swimmers and boaters.

"We are now working with Karnes County to have that area cleaned up," Schauer said. "All of that material is going to be removed."

Shaw said the debris came from the old Karnes City hospital, which is being torn down.

"There should have been more thought put into this," Shaw said.

She said there was apparently a verbal agreement between the demolition contractor at the hospital site and the county's road and bridge supervisor.

But Shaw said the county will make good on this mess.

"We're going to clean it up," Shaw said. "That's what's going to happen. We are going to work with the San Antonio River Authority and TCEQ. We are going to do whatever we have to make that river be like it should be for the citizens that live along that river bank."

Shaw does not know how long the project will take and worries about the cost.

Karnes County is already scraping to find money to fix roads torn up by trucks from the Eagle Ford Shale.

Residents had initial concerns that the debris from the old hospital was contaminated by asbestos, but the river authority says the asbestos was safely removed before the hospital was torn down.

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