Hundreds gather to protest proposed rock quarry in Marble Falls

Protest signs against a proposed rock crushing quarry in Marble Falls. (KXAN photo)

MARBLE FALLS, Texas (KXAN) — Hundreds of protesters attended an informational meeting about a proposed rock crushing plant near Marble Falls Thursday evening.

The Texas Commission on Environmental Quality held the meeting regarding a permit application for a rock crushing plant off of US 281 near Flat Rock Road. The proposed plant would also include a rock quarry, according to representatives with Asphalt Inc., the company that applied for the permit.

The permit application has garnered a lot of opposition in the Hill Country. More than 1,000 people shared public comments on the TCEQ’s website.

Opponents say they’re worried the plant would squelch the city of Marble Falls’ plans to expand in the future. They’ve also expressed health and environmental concerns, asserting a carcinogen called crystalline silica can be found in the limestone that would be crushed, sending unhealthy dust particles into the air.

“I have lung disease, so just the particulates in the air are frightening to me,” said protester and Marble Falls resident Michele Hart.

Several medical professionals showed up to talk about the risks. “It’s real scary,” said radiologist Stephen Bunker.

With more than 30 years experience reading chest X-rays, Bunker says the dust could be harmful to a large number of people with health issues.

“Like patients that are in the hospital that’s two lanes across the highway from them where this plants going to go in,” he said. “They’re at risk for having that exacerbated.”

After the protest that preceded the public meeting, more health professionals expressed concerns to the panel hosting the question and answer session.

“Anybody who’s already compromised in a radius like this, in my medical opinion, can eventually lead to definite worsening or exacerbation of their pulmonary conditions,” said Yasir Cheema, a pulmonologist at Baylor Scott & White in Marble Falls.

TCEQ officials say the permit Asphalt Inc. is applying for would assure no significant levels of carcinogens make it into the air.

“There shouldn’t be anything past the property line that should have any health impact,” said Michael Wilson, director of the TCEQ’s Air Permits Division.

The crowd at the meeting had a hard time believing that. But even with hundreds showing up in opposition, TCEQ officials say their protesting will have little impact on the application process.

“When the applicant meets all of the rules, all the regulations and all the requirements, we are required to give them that authorization,” Wilson said.

The TCEQ has a little more than a month left to finish reviewing Asphalt Inc’s permit application for the plant. Wilson says so far, the company has met all requirements for the permit.

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