A meeting Thursday for east Fort Worth residents to ask a state regulatory agency questions about a proposed concrete crushing plant quickly turned to concerns about air quality and assurances the plant will be regulated if the project wins approval.
More than 200 east-side residents showed up at Nolan Catholic High School to oppose the facility on East First Street, which the Fort Worth City Council turned down a year ago. Texas Commission on Environmental Quality officials answered dozens of their questions, ranging from how the owner has to monitor the facility and what factors into the TCEQ’s decision on whether to approve the application to how inspections of the plant are done. One person even asked how the application could be killed forever.
Representatives from nearly a dozen neighborhood associations were in attendance. Alex Jimenez, president of East Fort Worth Inc., told the panel that residents are frustrated over the proposal.
“Surely, there’s another location in Tarrant County that’s better suited,” Jimenez said. “We don’t know the rules. I want you to help us find a way to get it denied.”
The TCEQ held the meeting at the request of state Rep. Nicole Collier, D-Fort Worth, after complaints starting coming in a month ago when East First Recycling Llc. filed an application for a permanent facility.
Dallas-based landowner Wallace Hall, a former University of Texas regent who did not attend the meeting, is asking for a state air quality permit after his efforts to win the Fort Worth council’s approval were rebuffed last year.
In June 2016, the City Council upheld a Zoning Commission recommendation that denied Hall a zoning change on the 400-acre property at 5317 E. First St., near Gateway and Arc parks and the White Lake Hills neighborhood and adjacent to the Trinity River.
“We rely heavily on the public to report violations,” said Don Nelon, the TCEQ examiner who is reviewing the application. Nelon told the crowd that the application meets the standards to receive a permit but that a decision hasn’t been made. If approved, the permit is good for 10 years, he said.
The City Council recently approved a resolution opposing the permit application and sent it to the TCEQ. It says in part that a concrete-crushing plant is not compatible with the area’s commercial and multifamily zoning or the city’s comprehensive plan. The resolution also points to emissions of particulate carbon monoxide, nitrogen oxide and sulfur dioxide that could harm residents and the environment.
Stacey Pierce, executive director of Streams and Valleys, told the panel that “air and water are inextricably linked and that everything finds its way to the river.”
The city manager’s office also sent a letter of protest to the TCEQ.
Alicia Ortiz, district director for Councilman Cary Moon, whose district includes the proposed site, told the panel: “The location has already been considered by the city and denied,”
Last year, the Zoning Commission received more than 1,000 letters, as well as petitions with many signatures, expressing opposition and arguing that the plant would have an adverse impact to residents and cause health concerns.
The council vote meant that Hall could not reapply for a city permit for a year. Hall waited the year but turned to the state for approval instead of the council. If he wins approval he would still be subject to the city’s zoning rules.
Residents have until 5 p.m. Monday to file written comments with the TCEQ.
Because the request is for a permanent plant, the TCEQ must make a decision within 30 days after the comment period has ended, said Andrew Keese, a TCEQ spokesman. A public hearing is not required in this case.
Hall holds hundreds of acres of floodplain along the Trinity River under a mitigation banking business. That allows a developer to obtain a permit to destroy a wetland if it invests in wetland creation or enhancement elsewhere.