Armed with “agree” and “disagree” signs and adamant in their disapproval of a new quarry, a vocal crowd of several hundred Spicewood-area residents packed the Lakeside Pavilion in Marble Falls on Thursday night at an informational meeting about incoming rock-crushing plant Spicewood Crushed Stone LLC.
The Texas Commission on Environmental Quality is in the process of reviewing a standard air-quality permit for Dalrymple Construction Companies, the New York-based company planning the quarry, which would be located along Hwy. 71 between two residential neighborhoods, Double Horn Creek and Spicewood Trails.
Representatives from the TCEQ and Dalrymple took questions from attendees at the information-gathering meeting, but comments were not recorded as part of the application. Instead residents had the opportunity to submit official comments Thursday at a table TCEQ hosted. They can also submit them online or in writing until the public comment period closes Oct. 19.
District 20 Chief of Staff Jeff Frazier addressed the crowd on behalf of state Rep. Terry Wilson, R-Marble Falls.
“The Legislature put down very strict parameters in 2006 regarding what TCEQ can and cannot consider when it comes to these types of permits,” Frazier said. “The question we keep getting is: ‘Is this the only permit that stands in the way of people putting in quarries and rock crushers?’”
The answer is yes, he said, and because of that the TCEQ permit for Dalrymple has become a catch-all for complaints that the body cannot regulate.
“But TCEQ is prevented from taking any of these [complaints]into consideration,” he said, adding that Wilson is working on legislation that makes sure constituents have an agency empowered to deal with operating permits that can look at a variety of concerns, including public safety.
Other public figures in attendance included Don Barber, chief of staff for state Rep. Paul Workman, R-Austin; Burnet County Judge James Oakley; and Burnet County commissioners Joe Don Dockery and Billy Wall.
Jennifer Smith, a lawyer representing residents who own homes near the quarry site, asked how much material the facility would be allowed to process hourly. Don Nelon, a member of the TCEQ air permits division, said a maximum of 200 tons per hour is permitted, and the facility is limited to daylight production only.
R.G. Carver, owner of The Carver Group, a homebuilder and architectural firm in Spicewood, asked if any scientific data was required on a standard air permit. Nelon said emission calculations are not required.
Glenn Leisey, one of the founders of the Spicewood Environmental Protection Alliance, asked what exactly it means when the TCEQ says it allows for public participation. Nelon replied there is an opportunity to submit comments for the executive director to take into consideration, adding that more than 400 comments have been made on this project so far.
Leisey asked how many comments were in favor of the quarry, and Nelon said he did not believe any of them were. He also asked Dalrymple representatives why they chose the location between the two neighborhoods.
“I know everyone assumes because there is a quarry right there already [Vulcan Quarry on the opposite side of Hwy. 71] there is no need for another,” Dalrymple engineer Betsy Farmer said. “But it’s an expanding area, and there is a need for stone. A single quarry may not be able to supply all of that.”
Farmer said it is common to find quarries close together because it means there is a good seam of rock in that location. In this case, she said, the location is ideal because it contains high-quality rock along an east/west highway and is minutes away from a north/south highway.
“Everyone says, ‘Go 5 miles down the road and get good rock.’ But you can’t,” Farmer said. “Rock can change suddenly.”
Marlowe Macintyre, a Spicewood resident who lives near Asphalt Inc., brought up property value loss and asked what measurement equipment is currently in service.
Nelon said TCEQ does not have the authority to consider noise pollution and he does not know of any air monitors in the district.
Crystalline silica, a lung carcinogen, is also a prominent concern among residents, and Dalrymple representatives said Thursday they would be testing for it. TCEQ representatives also said that if anyone thinks a permit is being violated, they can file a complaint, and an investigator will be sent out during an undisclosed time. Residents were also encouraged to take pictures of any negative effects from a blast.
Grant Dean, director of the Texas Environmental Protection Coalition, said he put together a list of items local residents and Dalrymple staff can do to work together for peaceful change, but no one has agreed to meet with him on the matter.
Dean encouraged attendees to write every politician they can think of and request change to the permitting process to implement more regulations.