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Marble Falls quarry again seeks to expand, raising environmental concerns

CONNIE SWINNEY • STAFF WRITER

MARBLE FALLS — A rock quarry has rekindled its efforts to expand in two areas in Burnet County while opponents say they have yet to give up the fight to protect air and water quality.

APAC Texas, located in the 8100 block of U.S. 281 in northern Marble Falls, re-submitted an application request for an amendment from the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality that would increase its output of rock by 1.3 million tons per year and clear the way for another rock crusher on that property, officials said.

TCEQ reported that would result in another 10,000 pounds of dust particulates per year.

“Anybody who drives by the quarry or sees it at night — the amount of dust particulates they put in the air, the light they put in the skies, the noise and the traffic,” said Paul King, co-founder of Texas Hill Country Property Rights Coalition.

“They’re sitting right on top of the Ellenberger Aquifer, where most of us get our water in the area,” King added. “We need to balance, keep them in check and make sure they’re developing in the right way and not harm our economic development in the future.”

In the new application, APAC proposed increasing the amount of rock mined from 7.7 million tons to 9 million tons, according to a TCEQ statement Aug. 5.

On June 7, the company withdrew a permit amendment request that would have allowed it to grow its output from 7.7 million tons per year to 12 million tons per year, which would have significantly increased the amount of dust particulates output compared to the resubmitted request.

“We are concerned that they have reapplied so quickly. Will they model the entire facility or just the incremental expansion?” King asked. “We believe they should be modeling the impact on air quality on their entire facility and the surrounding quarries.

“It’s the overall impact that affects our quality of life, not just the intermittent expansion,” he added.

Modeling refers to a method officials utilize to quantify or understand the potential impact or effect of a particular activity.

For several months, King’s organization called for public meetings and worked with local and state officials to halt APAC’s previous permit application.

Before the permit withdrawal, Burnet County Judge James Oakley and state Rep.-elect Terry Wilson of District 20 also met with TCEQ staff to express concerns with the application.

Oakley said officials will continue to monitor the new request.

“The first one they put through, it had some problems with it. I’m glad to see that got pulled,” Oakley said. “The new application is a little bit of a reduced scope and, hopefully, compliant with the TCEQ guidelines.

“It’s not the county’s authority to approve or disapprove land use, but what we want to make sure that state guidelines are followed,” Oakley added.

In an Aug. 17 statement, TCEQ officials confirmed opportunities for public input still exist.

“Public meetings may be requested by the public for projects which are required to publish notice,” the statement read.

OFFER COMMENTS TO TCEQ HERE

TCEQ officials said they are reviewing the application and have yet to make a determination.

Despite the “scaled-down” request, concerns persist about how the state would count the dust particulates in the air due to the proposed expansion.

“They still structure the application to try to get TCEQ to only count the new dust and pretend the existing dust does not exist,” said attorney Brian Sledge, who represents adjacent landowners. “We’re still urging the common sense approach, which TCEQ could require, and that’s you need to consider all the dust because that’s what has impact on the environment.”

Attempts to reach APAC for a comment were unsuccessful.

FIND OUT MORE ABOUT THE TEXAS HILL COUNTRY PROPERTY RIGHTS COALITION HERE AND HERE

connie@thepicayune.com