AUSTIN (KXAN) — A state agency is moving forward in the approval process for a rock and concrete-crushing plant despite pushback from neighbors who feel it’s way too close to homes.

The location for the proposed plant is in the area of 300 Edwin Lane in east Austin.

Neighbors are worried about air quality. Some who have lived in the area for generations, said they’ve been dealing with dusty air for years, just from temporary plants.

The Texas Commission on Environmental Quality regulates permits for the plants.

“Sometimes, depending on the wind, it can be so thick, you can barely see through it,” David Sides, a neighbor, said.

Christopher Lupone fears that prolonged exposure to dust could really make people sick.

“It’s a big health risk,” Lupone said.

Sides and Lupone live on opposite ends of where the plant would go — less than a mile or so away from the site.

Both are worried about what will happen now that a company has applied for a permit to have a permanent plant there.

“There are 250 homes within a mile — less than a mile — of this,” Lupone said. “It’s ridiculous to think that they would do this, but then nothing seemed to be stopping it.”

Nearly 100 neighbors have left comments on TCEQ’s website, saying why they don’t want the permit to be approved for the plant. Now, they want a public meeting to be able to openly talk about their concerns. Some said temporary sites similar to the permanent one that is waiting on permit approval, haven’t been mindful of air quality. One neighbor even took a video of dusty air and low visibility as proof.

TCEQ followed up with KXAN Tuesday and said there were more than 80 replies on the TCEQ website discussing why neighbors did not want the plant there.

“All comments and concerns are considered before any final decision is made to approve a standard permit application. The executive director’s staff will respond to all comments received on this application by filing a response to comments document (RTC) that will be sent to all commentors and anyone on the mailing list,” TCEQ told KXAN in an email.

“Crushed stone has a lot of fundamental uses in construction, it’s material that goes into asphalt and concrete, for making roads, walkways, building foundations, railroad tracks, and crushed stone is also used quite a bit in landscaping, or drainage,” Jay Banner said. Banner is a professor at UT Austin’s Jackson School of Geosciences. “But at the same time, we have to always be cognizant of the potential impacts.”

Neighbors just want the people most impacted to be considered.

“Do we have to have them [rock-crushing plants] right next to people in a state where there’s so much land open space,” Lupone said.

“Ranger Excavating Inc. applied to register a rock crushing plant under the Air Quality Standard Permit for Permanent Rock and Concrete Crushers. 

The Standard Permit provides that the TCEQ Executive Director approve or deny the application no later than 30 days after the end of the public comment period, considering all comments regarding the application, and base this decision on whether the application meets the requirements of the standard permit.  The public notice and comment period ended on March 18, 2023. There is not an opportunity to have a public meeting or contested case hearing under this standard permit.

The applicant has represented that all technical requirements in the standard permit have been met; therefore, the registration is in the approval process.  The executive director will issue a written response to any public comments received related to the issuance of the standard permit as soon as practicable after the executive director approves the application.”

TCEQ

Ranger Excavating did not get back to KXAN with an official comment as of Monday evening. We will update this story once we hear back.

Neighbors said they’re going to work to get city council representatives involved to fight this.

On Tuesday, TCEQ said, “The standard permit contains technical requirements designed to ensure facilities authorized under the standard permit achieve emissions standards determined to be protective of human health and the environment. After approval, the registration will be eligible for renewal in 10 years.”