Judge gives Comal County illegal dump owner second chance

Bill Easley arrested, held in contempt of court, ordered to begin cleanup

SPRING BRANCH, Texas – It has been an eyesore and a source of complaints in the community of Spring Branch for the past five years and it doesn't look like it will be gone any time soon.

A Travis County judge is giving a Comal County man more time to remove hazardous waste at an illegal dump he's been operating since 2014.

Even with a court-ordered permanent injunction in place since last September, Comal County Precinct 4 Commissioner Jen Crownover said business owner Bill Easley has refused to begin removing tons of debris from the 3.6-acre plot of land he was leasing for his now defunct recycling business, We Recycle Texas.

Some of the large bails of plastics have been removed from the entrance located in the 13600 block of Highway 281, but Crownover said Easley didn't remove them.

"There was some utility work out along the (Highway) 281 right of way and, unfortunately, the utility contractors had to clean up the mess that was spilling into the right of way," Crownover said. "So it looks a little cleaner for now and that's the optics, but the actual facts of the matter is that they had to clean up for him. It's something that just rattles the neighbors to no end and I just, I wish that Mr. Easley was a better citizen of his community."

The state says Easley's recycling business is nothing more than an illegal dump filled with hazardous waste and standing water that has become a breeding ground for mosquitos.

"I've got ambulances right here next door that answer the calls in the community and they're infested with mosquitoes from this place. It's not OK," Crownover said.

Last fall, when confronted by the Defenders Tim Gerber, Easley refused to tell his side of the story on camera but said he was in the process of selling the recyclable materials to a buyer in Mexico and stated that he and the materials would be off the land by the first week of October.

He strongly refuted the state's claims that there were hazardous materials on the site.

"I think I'm being bullied by the state of Texas. There is no hazardous waste here. I can't recycle hazardous waste. If there's anything here, (it's) oil and it's because somebody dropped off a 5-gallon bucket of it because they are too lazy to take it to an oil-change place." Easley said. 

Easley missed his own deadline to vacate the property. He also missed several court dates until he was recently arrested for contempt of court. Two weeks ago, he represented himself in court.

"At the end of it, the judge was pretty disgruntled at the mess and realized it's pretty futile, I think, for Mr. Easley to really actually handle this in any kind of effective manner," Crownover said.

Despite being held in contempt of court, the judge is giving Easley another chance to clean up the mess.

He was ordered to immediately allow state inspectors on the site. He was given 30 days to remove the standing water, 60 days to package and label all hazardous waste, 90 days to dispose of that hazardous waste and 120 days to begin removing the rest of the trash.

While Easley said 90 to 98 percent of the materials on the property are recyclable, Crownover said that just the case.

"I think, in his reality, he really thinks he's doing something great here by keeping all of this out of the landfill but the reality is, that's where it's bound," Crownover said. "There's some flame retardant stuff in the plastic itself and so they won't even accept it but he hangs onto it anyways looking for a different result."

The landowner has evicted Easley but the state says it's still his responsibility to clean up the mess.

Crownover believes it will fall on taxpayers to pick up the bill for the cleanup.

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