Vulcan Materials Corporation has received a draft air permit for its proposed rock crushing plant in Comal County, but opponents of the facility say the fight has just begun, News Radio 1200 WOAI reports.
The permit indicates that the Texas Commission on Envrionmental Quality is convinced that the plant will meet all specified air quality standards. The next step is a public hearing before a hearing examiner, which is expected to take place this summer.
“We operate in one of the most regulated industries in the country,” said Vulcan spokesman Scott Burnham. “We have presented a responsible plan that demonstrates we’re committed to Comal County and that we will operate in a safe and responsible manner. We’re also committed to engaging with the community and we look forward to participating in the remainder of the permitting process.”
But Sabrina Houser-Amaya, who is with Friends of Dry Comal Creek, a Comal County residents group which has been fighting the quarry for more than year, says building a limestone quarry in a rapidly growing area just off Highway 46 is a dangerous idea which will put out very hazardous airborne particles in an area which counts thousands of homes in a five mile radius.
"The particle size that the residents are most concerned about is what is called 'particulate matter 2.5,' which is respirable, but you can't see it," she said, adding that the permit, if eventually granted, would allow the facility to operate for up to eighty years, which means generations of residents could be harmed by the quarry's particulate emissions.
"Long term, those particles can cause silicosis, which is a very serious lung, respiratory disorder."
Vulcan says it has successfully operated rock quarries, crushing facilities, and similar operations in metro San Antonio for decades, and many of them are close to populated areas. It says the products from the Comal plant will be used to build schools, roads, and other facilities in the local area.
But Houser-Amaya says those facilities were different, because, in many cases, the neighborhoods grew up after the quarry was in place. This proposal is different.
"They are, what we have described, helicoptering this quarry in, on a large piece of land, designed to last eighty years, into a residential community."
Houser-Amaya says the residents who live near the site of the quarry have been granted 'affected party status,' which means they will be allowed to provide input as the hearing process continues.
She says after the Contested Case Hearing is held in June, the hearing examiners will have until September to make a decision on whether the quarry can proceed, cannot proceed, or will be allowed to proceed with changes to its plan. The full TCEQ will make a decision on that ruling, which can then be contested in court. That means it will be at least next year before a final decision on this quarry is made.
PHOTO: SABRINA HOUSER-AMAYA