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Lawmaker hears from a concerned public

The town hall meeting concept took on a new form and focus on October 1st when Texas state Rep. Terry Wilson hosted a Zoom video conference to take public comment on Aggregate Production Operations (APOs).

As Chair of the House Interim Committee on APOs, Wilson wanted to hear from the public on this final day of a three-day event. The two previous days were taken up by speakers representing the industry and community groups.

APOs can include quarries, rock crushers and sand mines that produce the raw materials used to build and maintain our roadways or feed the concrete the batch plants integral to the housing market for the slabs poured from their product.

APOs are coming under fire from the public as they have always been noisy, dusty and consume very large quantities of water, but now encroach on established neighborhoods as well as the rural lands of the farmer and rancher.

Wilson’s opening remarks included these astute observations. “One of the things that struck me as we were looking at the issues in preparation for the last session, a lot of the standards don’t transition to our situation that we’re in today. 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 water.”

Comal County was well represented, especially critical of a proposed Vulcan quarry at SH 46 and FM 3009 near the City of Garden Ridge. Many spoke to the danger of breathing dust laden with silica, a known carcinogen.

Several Boerne area participants presented compelling stories with a focus on road planning, a concrete batch plant’s impact on health and safety and water issues.

Denise LeAnn Dever was adamant with her statement to Rep. Wilson. “When TxDOT is asked to the table by the Kendall County Commissioners Court and the City of Boerne, the entire APO Industry is informed that roadway planning has been officially authorized. When TxDOT maps the “recommended concept road” to include almost 1,000 acres, in Kendall County Texas Hill County, creating a “Loop” around the City of Boerne the APO Concrete Batch Plants and planned Quarries also ask for permits.”
Odie Waters spoke to his concerns about a Vulcan concrete batch plant planned to operate directly across SH 46 from his property in the neighborhood of Pleasant Valley. Waters said the dangerous traffic on this highway today will worsen with heavy trucks entering and exiting the plant.

He also questioned its location as it would operate directly next to a Montessori school, potentially exposing those people to respiratory issues from breathing the dust it will produce as well as the noise. He also noted the high quantity of water from a well permitted by the Cow Creek Groundwater Conservation District and the effect it will have on his well and others.

Milan J. Michalec, President of the District, who represents constituents like Waters, told Rep. Wilson that as difficult as it was to do, this permit was issued consistent with the law—Chapter 36 of the Texas Water Code.

According to Michalec, “With an eye on the law that states groundwater is a right for each property owner, issuing operating permits free of picking winners and losers can ensure everyone gets an equitable share of the local groundwater. These permits are no guarantee that water from a well will actually be available and each permittee must abide by management plan subject to cutbacks in time of drought.”

The town hall ended with Rep. Wilson sincerely thanking all participants over the past three days and reminded everyone his committee welcomes written comments until 30 October 2020. For submission instructions visit the committee’s website at: https://capitol.texas.gov/tlodocs/86R/schedules/pdf/C0192020091800001.pdf

This article by Milan J. Michalec, Former HCA Board Member, Director Pct 2 and President of the Cow Creek Groundwater Conservation District, was published in the Hill Country Weekly on October 8, 2020 and is accessible here.