EDITOR DANIEL CLIFTON
SPICEWOOD — More than two dozen people braved a potential storm Sept. 8 in an effort to stop a planned quarry and rock crusher being built between the Double Horn Creek and Spicewood Trails subdivisions.
“These people have no consideration for our neighborhoods,” said R.G. Carver about the company wanting to build the quarry as he spoke to a group of residents as well as people from Round Mountain, Boerne, and Sandy Creek
The group of people were all concerned with the growing number of mining operations in the area that they feel threaten their health, communities, water, and property values.
The latest proposed rock crusher and quarry that has raised the ire of residents is planned to take up approximately 281 acres between Double Horn Creek and Spicewood Trails. The facility, operated by Spicewood Crushed Stone LLC, which is owned by New York-based Dalrymple Gravel and Contracting Co., could start operating as early as Dec. 1, according to opponents.
Michael Wright, who lives in Double Horn Creek, fears the quarry would lead to air quality, water, and highway safety issues in the area.
“There are already four or five quarries in this area,” he said. “I’m really concerned about our health and adding more particulates.”
Those “particulates,” particularly crystalline silica, which can be breathed in by people and possibly cause silicosis, could be carried in the dust from quarries and rock crushers.
According to the National Cancer Institute: “Exposure of workers to respirable crystalline silica is associated with elevated rates of lung cancer. The strongest link between human lung cancer and exposure to respirable crystalline silica has been seen in studies of quarry and granite workers and workers involved in ceramic, pottery, refractory brick, and certain earth industries.”
A 2014 National Institute of Environmental Health and Safety report on respirable size crystalline silica states: “Residents near quarries and sand and gravel operations potentially are exposed to respirable crystalline silica.”
Opponents to quarries locating in close proximity to residential areas, however, point out the longterm effects of dust from mining operations on nearby residents is a big unknown. Most previous studies revolved around those working in mining operations or related jobs while focusing little on people living nearby.
Grant Dean, president of the Texas Environmental Protection Coalition, told people gathered Sept. 8 that his issue with the quarries isn’t their existence but their recent push into more residential locations. In years past, quarries opened up in areas away from homes and communities, and if people decided to build near one, that was their decision.
The recent expansion of quarries and mines near residential and commercial areas, however, is different, according to Dean.
“What they’re doing now is forcing themselves into our lives,” Dean said. “This has to stop.”
And there’s no legal recourse for nearby residents. As long as a quarry or mining operation meets a few basic permitting standards, Dean said it can open adjacent to residential communities such as Double Horn Creek and Spicewood Trails.
As for the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality, Dean and Carver both said it issues permits such as the standard air quality permit with little knowledge of the impact on the surrounding area.
“They’re using 2008 air standards to give (Spicewood Crushed Stone) a permit,” Carver said. “The permitting process is a joke.”
And, he added, TCEQ doesn’t come out and take initial air quality readings or return to monitor air quality once the mine is open and operating.
“The only monitoring that goes in is self-monitoring,” he said.
Carver added that Texas is the only state that doesn’t have a reclamation process once the quarrying is completed; instead, the company can walk away from it leaving “a big hole in the ground.”
Dean, who spent several months fighting a proposed rock crusher and quarry south of Marble Falls, learned quite a bit about the permitting process and TCEQ during that time. The land where the quarry was planned is up for sale, though the air permit is active.
“It’s almost as if the TCEQ assists these guys into moving into our area,” he told the crowd Sept. 8. “We have to forget TCEQ. We have to start going after (quarry operators) directly. We will tell them they are not welcome (in our neighborhoods). We’ll place air monitors around this ranch.”
And every time there is a violation, he said, they’ll report it and share it with the community.
Dean said the best way to address the planned Spicewood quarry is to make sure the owners know they aren’t welcome and put pressure on them to rethink how they do business.
“We know we all need them (for their product), but they have to learn to be better neighbors,” added Dean about the industry as a whole.
Spicewood residents opposed to the Spicewood Crushed Stone facility have organized the Spicewood Environmental Protection Alliance Texas. Go to sepatx.com for more information on the organization.