Mining influx pits environmental concerns against economic impact

STAFF WRITER CONNIE SWINNEY

The Highland Lakes Clean Air group lined U.S. 281 in southern Burnet County on Sept. 30 and Oct. 1 to protest the air quality permit application for a rock crushing operation. The group has invited the public to a second weekend of protests from 9 -5 p.m. Oct. 7 and 8 at the intersection of 281 and CR 403. Courtesy photo

The Highland Lakes Clean Air group lined U.S. 281 in southern Burnet County on Sept. 30 and Oct. 1 to protest the air quality permit application for a rock crushing operation. The group has invited the public to a second weekend of protests from 9 -5 p.m. Oct. 7 and 8 at the intersection of 281 and CR 403. Courtesy photo

BURNET COUNTY — A mining industry representative has blasted environmental concerns by opponents of rock crusher permits, citing the economic benefits of aggregate materials tied to infrastructure and jobs.

In a phone interview Oct. 6, Rich Szecsy, a licensed civil engineer for the Texas Aggregate and Concrete Association, addressed efforts by the Highland Lakes Clean Air group to halt air quality permits requested by Asphalt Inc. and Collier Materials Inc. in Burnet County.

Opponents have inundated the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality with public comments and planned a second weekend of protests Oct. 8-9 at the proposed Asphalt Inc. site at the intersection U.S. 281 and CR 403.

Szecsy said the recent outcry fails to credit the mining industry with its lawful operation and lucrative impact on the state of Texas.

“Texas is the number one consuming state for concrete, aggregates, and cement,” Szecsy said. “Those material construction tracks with population growth of which Texas is adding one million people to its population per year.”

He added that the industry directly generates $8.5 billion for the state and reports $40 billion overall in economic value.

“For every $1 that’s spent on infrastructure, it generates an additional $5 of economic value for a community,” Szecsy said. “The quarry and asphalt supply are all the foundations of infrastructure.”

HLCA co-organizer Grant Dean owns Cactus Companies, a home construction company, and admits to benefiting from the fruits of mining labor.

However, he believes the county has become overwhelmed by rock-based businesses, including at least half a dozen existing mining operations in Burnet County.

“I am for property rights. I build every day. I use aggregate materials,” Dean said, “but I don’t want that aggregate coming from across the street from a brand new hospital.”

The northwest side of the proposed Asphalt Inc. property would run adjacent to and across Texas 71 from the Baylor Scott & White Medical Center-Marble Falls.

Dean believes concerns about air and water quality as well as increased truck traffic should outweigh profit.

“This is totally irresponsible. Asphalt Inc. is the only one who will benefit from this,” Dean said. “God has put us here to be good stewards of our land.

“This is not showing good stewardship,” he added.

Szecsy believes opponents should recognize those benefiting from the aggregate business activity are their friends and neighbors.

“These operations provide skilled labor opportunities within the community,” Szecsy said. “The majority of people who work there are local residents whose families depend on those jobs for their livelihood.”

The deadline to offer public comments to TCEQ has been extended from Oct. 9 to Oct. 31 — the second extension tied to public outcry.

A public meeting is scheduled for 7 p.m. Thursday, Oct. 26, at Lakeside Pavilion, 307 Buena Vista Drive in Marble Falls.

connie@thepicayune.com

6 Responses to “Mining influx pits environmental concerns against economic impact”

  1. Jeannie says:

    This area is saturated with rock crushing plants. The dust is a real threat to our lives – not only health-wise but property wise. We’ve invested almost our entire life savings in our property and white dust, blasting and dangerous truck traffic at the end of CR 403 will compromise our property value. There needs to be more legislative control in addition to air quality permits. Water supplies are impacted; highway and road safety need to be taken under consideration. Trucks will be exiting onto a highway with 75mph speed limits. There was a death there recently. Enough is enough!

  2. Krystal says:

    “It’ll bring jobs,” they said.

    According to the U.S. Department of Labor’s Bureau of Labor Statistics, in 2016, workers in Burnet County in the Nonmetallic Mineral Mining and Quarrying industry earned only $0.69 for every $1.00 workers in the same sector, across the U.S., earned.

    Low-wage workers are in jobs that are insecure and make it virtually impossible for them to invest in education or training, or to buy a car, to get to a better job. In addition, studies have found that low-wages have particularly harmful effects on families, children, and workers’ health, which, in turn, are additional barriers to workers getting better jobs.

    Should Mr. Szecsy convince his industry comrades to provide workers with wages that chart closer to the national average, then I would believe the rosy picture he tries to paint about the local quarry workers (and their family’s) livelihoods.

    It’s all about profits and greed.

  3. Doug says:

    Who was there first Jeannie, the rock plant or you? If by chance it was the rock plant( and my guess it was) who are you to knowingly buy property in that area and then complain ?
    Just a thought…

  4. Doug says:

    Sorry, I thought you were talking about an existing plant, my bad.

  5. Tracy Good says:

    The permit that Asphalt Inc. needs in order to operate is solely based on environmental issues and not economic issues. TCEQ is not suppose to consider anything that Rich Szecsy said above as we have been told, as potential neighbors, that the potential financial devastation that this will bring us is not an issue they will consider. Why in this article did he not address any of the environmental issues this plant will bring with the most concerning one being the degradation of the air quality at the regional health care facility that will be down wind from this plant. The health of the patients and the employees at this facility will be impacted as well as the actual health care provided because they will have a much harder time recruiting doctors and nurses. Who wants to work in a pollution zone. This permit needs to be denied.

  6. mike says:

    Grant Dean suddenly cares about the air quality when it is in his own development. He stands to lose money so now he cares. Did he start the big opposition when the asphalt companies and rock quarry’s came to spicewood? He didn’t seem to mind so much then. He only cares about his OWN self interests, if it were in anyone else’s backyard he would not be there to protest. Don’t fool yourselves people. I am not pleased with it going in either.

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