Blasting, clouds of fine particulates, and over-taxed roads were all issues raised by the public Thursday, Oct. 1, during the final of three virtual town hall meetings hosted by state Rep. Terry Wilson on the subject of Aggregate Production Operations (APOs), a category that includes rock crushers, surface miners, concrete plants, and more.
Wilson, the chair of the House Interim Study Committee on APOs, had in previous days invited industry professionals and community action groups to speak. Today, the public shared their stories and concerns.
“One of the things that struck me as we were looking at the issues in preparation for this last session, a lot of the standards don’t transition to our situation that we’re in today,” Wilson said. “The huge demand, the location of where the rock is, and, oh, by the way, it happens to be where the population is growing, which, oh, by the way, it happens to be places where it’s deprived of water.”
Concrete batch plants were discussed more closely than in previous sessions in the testimony provided by Adrian Shelley, a director of Public Citizen. He provided anecdotes of plants operating at all hours in residential neighborhoods, plants disregarding setbacks, and insufficient air quality monitoring.
“(Particulate matter) health effects dwarf all other pollutants,” Shelley said. “In the Texas urban environment, there are billions of dollars in PM health effects. Globally, 90 percent of air pollution deaths are due to PM pollution.”
Several of the speakers were from Comal County and spoke specifically against Vulcan Quarry, a proposed open-pit limestone quarry to be located between Bulverde, Spring Branch, Garden Ridge, and New Braunfels.
“It will be a brand new facility that, in our perspective, will be helicoptered into a residential and ranching area,” said David Drewa of the advocacy group Preserve Our Hill Country. “There are no other industrial facilities nearby. It will be literally yards from front porches and neighboring residents, and, most importantly, it stretches for three miles across the Edwards Aquifer recharge zone, affecting the water supply for 3 million people.”
Another repeated concern was dangerous traffic on country roads that were not sufficient for supporting rock-, gravel- and sand-hauling trucks.
“Just like air pollution, we don’t need more pollution of heavy duty vehicles going down our highways,” said Oscar Decker of Canyon Lake. “I’m all for the plant, but put it by a railroad track or put it where there’s a major highway so these trucks don’t get on these little roads we got right now.”