Planned Spicewood asphalt plant draws neighbor protests

Courtesy Micah Saenz, Alan Nehring

SPICEWOOD (KXAN) – A planned “hot mix” asphalt plant has received permits from the state’s top environmental regulation agency and protests from locals concerned about negative impacts on air, water and property values nearby.

The yet-to-be-built plant would be located at 6755 E. Hwy. 71, near the intersection of Deerpath Way and two rural neighborhoods, according to permit documents.

Stephen Spinn, chief financial officer of the company, Asphalt Inc. LLC, told KXAN the industrial plant would not impact the environment and his company has followed all necessary laws.

“We have gone through all the proper permitting processes and given all the proper notifications,” Spinn said. “The asphalt plant that we are putting in is brand new and state of the art compared to the existing plant that is located in the exact same area.”

But neighbors said they are concerned the plant could foul nearby water and air, as well as disrupt their way of life in rural Burnet County.

One local man opposed to the plant, Micah Saenz, has also taken issue with Texas Commission on Environmental Quality’s handling of a permit for the facility. In October, Saenz sued TCEQ for violating his “due process right to raise valid concerns with Asphalt Inc. LLC’s … application,” according to the lawsuit.

Saenz said he did not learn about the plant’s stormwater permit application until Oct. 15, after the timeframe for filing a motion to overturn the decision. Saenz also noted TCEQ approved the asphalt plant’s water permit the same day it received the application, and stormwater with contaminants from the plant could enter his property, according to the lawsuit.

Saenz said the plant did not properly post notice of the operation in a readily viewable spot. According to TCEQ rules, the plant is required to post notice of the project near the site’s entrance, the lawsuit states.

A TCEQ spokesperson declined to comment on the asphalt plant permits due to the pending litigation.

Spinn said any issues with the permitting laws and processes themselves are outside of his company’s control. “We don’t establish the law. The state establishes the laws,” Spinn said. “We just follow the laws.” Spinn also noted that for more than a decade Vulcan Materials, a major construction material manufacturer, has operated a large aggregate plant about half a mile from Asphalt Inc.’s planned facility.

Michael Moore lives near the proposed plant, and he opposes it. He said the facility could impact Krause Springs, a nearby attraction. Increased truck traffic could be dangerous and the plant’s presence could decrease residential property values. He also noted a local vineyard and elementary school could be negatively affected.

It is “basically an industrial plant next to a residential community,” Moore said.

Neil Carman, clean air program director with the Sierra Club’s Lonestar Chapter, said “hot mix” asphalt facilities mix crushed rock with heated asphaltic crude oil, before the mixture is laid on roads. The heated asphaltic crude can emit certain toxins, including benzene and formaldehyde. Hot mix plants typically employ a technology called a “baghouse,” which is a special filter that catches particulate matter and reduces pollution from the plant, he said.

Jack Wheeler owns the land on which the plant will be located, according to Burnet Central Appraisal District records.

Wheeler has operated construction material companies in the past. In 2009, manufacturing and construction company Oldcastle Materials acquired Wheeler Companies. The merged company, now called APAC Texas-Wheeler Companies, is not involved with Asphalt Inc.’s Spicewood plant, an APAC representative and Spinn said.

TCEQ approved an Asphalt Inc. air quality standard permit, which will expire in 2025. That air permit would allow the facility to operate 24 hours a day with a production limit of 300 tons per hour. The TCEQ also approved a water quality general permit for the plant, which notes 18.5 acres could be used for the site and Little Cypress Creek would be the “receiving water body.”

The Lower Colorado River Authority also received an application for a development permit for the facility.

The group opposed to the plant has organized a meeting at Opie’s Barbecue in Spicewood for Thursday at 6 p.m., according to the group’s Facebook page: “Citizens Against the Asphalt Plant in Spicewood.”

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