Spicewood asphalt plant sparks another lawsuit, resident departure

SPICEWOOD, Texas (KXAN) – Another Spicewood resident has sued the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality over the permitting of a “hot mix” asphalt plant operating next door.

In the lawsuit, Spicewood resident Michael Moore says the TCEQ shouldn’t have permitted the asphalt production facility, and storm water runoff from the plant could ultimately send contaminants into Lake Travis. The plant is located at 6755 E. Highway 71.

Moore and others residents of Deerpath Way, a dead-end gravel road with homes that share a fence with the new asphalt plant, believe the facility is interrupting their way of life in Burnet County.

“[Moore] thinks this is an inappropriate location for the facility,” said Eric Allmon, an attorney representing Moore in the lawsuit.

A TCEQ spokesperson said the agency would not comment on pending litigation. Steve Spinn, chief financial officer with Asphalt Inc., said the facility is in total compliance with TCEQ laws and will not pollute the environment.

“We are up and running and fully permitted and fully licensed by the state of Texas,” Spinn told KXAN by phone.

While Moore fights the state’s top environmental agency over permits, other residents of Deerpath Way, including Scott White, are moving out.

White, executive director of V.E.T.S. (Veteran Equine Training Services), said concerns about the asphalt production, air quality and the health of his horses led him to relocate to Liberty Hill in early June. White’s business unites rescue horses with veterans for a training program that assists with post-traumatic stress disorder.

“We are leaving because of it,” White said, regarding the asphalt plant, which is situated about 100 yards from his back fence.

An abandoned horse pen, formerly used by the business VETS for rescue horse training with military veterans.
An abandoned horse pen, formerly used by the business VETS for rescue horse training with military veterans.

Spinn said he had not heard anything about the VETS business.

Several other residents of Deerpath Way have opposed the plant since its inception. Last year, local resident Micah Saenz sued the TCEQ over the agency’s granting of the asphalt plant’s permits.

Moore’s lawsuit, which was filed in Travis County District Court on June 2, alleges TCEQ committed errors in approving the asphalt plant’s permit. The asphalt plant needed a stormwater pollution prevention plan but didn’t have one, and Moore was not provided with a notice of the application prior to approval, among other issues, according to the lawsuit.

“The authorization should have been denied in light of the size of the site and its proximity to Little Cypress Creek,” the lawsuit states.

Asphalt Inc. has ramped up operations at the site.

“We have 350 employees. We are a very large company,” Spinn said. “We work throughout the state of Texas in road construction and asphalt manufacturing and asphalt paving.”

Travis County is set to approve a modification to a contract with Asphalt Inc. on June 7. The latest contract for hot-mix asphalt county road overlays is valued at $3.62 million, according to Travis County Commissioners Court records.

Travis County awarded the original contract to SMA Asphalt LLC, which was doing business under the name Lone Star Paving. In a previous modification, the contract was moved to Asphalt Inc. LLC.

Asphalt Inc. has a subsidiary called Big ARK Transportation LLC., the managers listed in merger papers for Big ARK and Asphalt Inc. include Steve Spinn and John J. Wheeler, according to Texas Secretary of State filings.

Burnet County records show Jack Wheeler owns the Asphalt Inc. land in Spicewood. Jack Wheeler has operated construction 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 previously told KXAN.

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