Tobyville mining permit meeting set for Oct. 24

By Glynis Crawford Smith

The Highlander

A representative of the Tobyville Community northwest of Marble Falls attended the Marble Falls City Council meeting Tuesday night, Oct. 3, to make it clear that health and economic threats from rock and gravel mining and processing are not limited to the southern borders of the city.

The window of opportunity for comments on an air quality permit application from Collier Materials, Inc. for the Tobyville area is more narrow as for the Asphalt, Inc. permit being considered near Baylor Scott & White Hospital.

A public information and comment meeting on Collier Materials, Inc.'s Proposed New Air Quality Permit No. 146397L001 will be conducted by the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ) at 7 p.m. Tuesday, Oct. 24 at Holiday Inn Express, 714 Corazone Drive, in Marble Falls. Comments are due by that day.

“Our community lies outside the Marble Falls city limits but we are close by,” said Jessica Robertson of Tobyville, whose comment came amind many more against the Asphalt, Inc. plant. “We hope you know we have concerns too.”

The Collier permit application, for the addition of a portable crusher to an existing quarry differs from the standard permit sought by Asphalt, Inc. TCEQ representatives at the meeting will be able to discuss the difference. Comments and concerns can be expressed, but after the informational portion of the program.

Collier Materials lists two Burnet County locations in online company information, 121 County Road 120 (Fairland Road)and 4601 Farm to Market Road 1980. Neighbors of the the first location have seen big gravel trucks rumble through the intersection with the Tobyville Cemetery Road from a large open-pit gravel operation that has grown across the road from the cemetery for decades. The permit application concerns the FM 1980 location.

Julie Gunther, who lives right on the farm road with her husband and two children, is just one of a large number of neighbors who have become concerned.

“Everybody in the neighborhood has been talking about it on the NextDoor app,” said Gunther. “We all have wells out here. We are worried about the air quality, the groundwater aquifer and the traffic. The big truck traffic here is already terrible. This would just make it worse.”

“About 48 homes in our Northwest Oaks Subdivision will be affected,” said Bill Murray, also of the Tobyville community. “This has three major environmental and health implications.

“First, an airborne dust risks from crystalline silica, a known carcinogen to humans. Second, questionable effects on our water supply. And, third, increased atmospheric and land surface temperatures due to absorption of solar radiation by dust particles.”

Murray said the negative effects of dust on surrounding vegetation could prevent plant photosynthesis and cause stunted growth and loss of productivity and threaten the foo supply of a free roaming “Black Buck” herd.

Dale Seabaugh, a member of the Highland Lakes Clean Air Coalition, a group newly organized to oppose new such plants, also spoke at the Marble Falls City Council Meeting. He urged opponents, “Stick to a central message of health hazards of the crystalline silica.”

Silica dust from open mining operations can lead in some cases to the lung disease silicosis and Crystalline silica has been classified as a human lung carcinogen. Beyond all the claims to threats to property value, traffic dangers, road degradation and noise and dust nuisance, the health concerns have become a leading refrain among opponents.

More information about the Collier permit application or the permitting process, is available by calling the TCEQ Public Education Program, toll free, at 1-800-687-4040. General information can be found their website, www.tceq.texas.gov/

Written comments are encouraged anytime during the public meeting but, but as reported in The Highlander in September, comments by mail were due Sept. 17, but that deadline has been extended to the date of the public meeting, Oct. 24.

Correspondence to the TCEQ on any permit should be directed to the Office of the Chief Clerk, TCEQ, Mail Code MC-105, P.O. Box 13087, Austin, TX 78711-3087 or electronically at www.tceq.texas.gov/about/comments. The permit number in question should be included.

The Highland Lakes Clearn Air Coalition picketed with protest signs against Asphalt, Inc. last weekend and plans to return this weekend, Oct. 7-8, to the intersection of US 281 and CR 403, where Asphalt Inc. proposes a plant entry.

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