Ellis I Unit, Inactive Landfill Project

Sam Houston State University,

Environeering, Inc.,


Texas Department of Corrections



General Project Background

The Texas Department of Criminal Justice - Institutional Division (TDCJ-ID) owns and operates the Ellis I correctional unit located near the city of Huntsville, Texas in Walker County, Texas. The Ellis I unit contains an inactive landfill for which a permit application was submitted to the state as a nonhazardous waste disposal facility for municipal type wastes. Before completion the permit application and final permitting of the landfill, the landfill ceased receipt of all wastes. However, a subsequent inspection of the landfill by the state resulted in an agreement to submit permit application for the inactive landfill as if it were a known hazardous waste landfill. Integral to the preparation of this permit are three plans: the Ground Water Monitoring, the Closure Plan and the Post-Closure Care Plan.

The project team has to date addressed the Ground Water Monitoring Plan which is designed to provide a monitoring and detection system which will be capable of determining whether migration of potential contaminants from the inactive landfill is occurring into underlying ground waters.

Facility Description

The facility is the inactive landfill at the TDCJ-ID Ellis I Correctional Unit. The landfill was reportedly operated at the Ellis I Unit from 1976 to 1988. The landfill comprised a 7.5 acre site which was located within the correctional unit, in northern Walker County, Texas. The primary purpose of the landfill was to dispose of municipal type wastes generated by the Ellis I correctional unit. During this period, the Ellis I Unit also engaged in other types of activities which are considered industrial and agricultural in nature. In addition, another corrrectional unit in the area, the Wynne Unit, is alleged to have disposed of certain wastes at the Ellis I unit landfill. The method employed in the operation of the landfill was the trenching method. Trenches with depths of approximately ten feet below surface were excavated throughout the landfill acreage. These trenches were filled with waste material and then backfilled with naturally-occurring soils.

The active landfill was considered by the TDCJ-ID to be closed in 1988. At that time, the landfill was deed recorded as a municipal landfill and covered with clay and topsoil. The site was seeded with a native type of Bermuda grass and landscaped to promote drainage. The landfill cover was assumed by TDCJ-ID to be suitable for municipal waste purposes.

The surrounding land usage is primarily for pasture and agricultural purposes. The inactive landfill is located within 5,000 feet of the Trinity River, which flows to the northeast and southeast of the site. Drainage from the area enters Turkey Creek which flows through the site and enters Livingston Reservoir in the Trinity River Basin, which is designated for contact recreation and high quality aquatic habitat. According to the Texas Board of Water Engineers, no major aquifers exist beneath the site. Also, the site is within the Trinity River floodplain area

Ellis I Inactive Landfill

Aerial Photograph of The Inactive Landfill

Purpose of the Plan

The purpose of this study is to collect information concerning soil and ground water conditions in the area which enables preparation of the required ground water monitoring plan. The purpose of this plan is to provide a ground water detection monitoring program designed to collect information on ground water quality conditions in the area. The collection of this background information will enable a determination of whether a contaminant release from the landfill into the uppermost aquifer has water quality conditions both up gradient and down gradient from the landfill. The plan will also provide for a statistical method for evaluating whether a significant change in down gradient ground water conditions has occurred as a result of leakage from the landfill. Should implementation of this plan indicate that ground water in the area is being affected by the landfill, then a ground water quality assessment plan would be implemented to evaluate the impact of those releases.