‘Not Just Dust’ group continues sand mine battle

Approximately 70 concerned area residents gathered on Old Applewhite Road on Feb. 9, to hear updates on the proposed frac sand mine processing plant. Many of the residents turned in lists of petition signatures upon arriving.

“Not Just Dust- Bruce Rd.” spokesperson Russell Wilson began with a summary of public meetings he and others have attended, such as Poteet City Council. He also urged them to attend upcoming meetings such as Pleasanton and Jourdanton City Council and local school board meetings.

On Monday morning, the concerned citizen’s group attended the Atascosa County Commissioner’s Court meeting. Wilson expressed his opposition to the proposed sand mine during public comments. Larry Fox, Atascosa County representative on the Evergreen Underground Water Conservation District Board of Directors spoke as an individual against the proposed frac sand project.

Fox said he is “old school” and believes that residents of a community should have a voice on projects that impact their community– and the residents oppose this project.

“More importantly this project would be located over the outcrop and recharge zone of the Carrizo and Queen City Aquifers– the most sensitive part of an aquifer system,” said Fox. “The chemicals used in frac sand production have the potential to contaminate groundwater in the area and risk will increase over time.” 

Wilson informed commissioners they were going to petition to have Bruce Roads and Old Applewhite Roads made as “no-truck traffic” roads to restrict it from truck traffic.  

Meeting with 

Preferred Sands

 

Wilson explained that late Thursday afternoon, Feb. 2, he was advised by Atascosa County Judge Bob Hurley and Atascosa County Commissioner Lonnie Gillespie that the lobbyist for Preferred Sands wanted to meet with him, which he did.  

The following day Bridget Booth and Jessie Hardy joined Wilson for a meeting at Judge Hurley’s office. The lobbyist walked in with the Preferred Sands CEO. The company wanted to know the concerned group’s objections.

“We laid out every single objection that we said from day one: the health issues, the environmental issues, the truck traffic issues, everything that we have talked about,” said Wilson.

The company asked Wilson and the group to put together a list of questions to send to them and they will respond in writing. 

“Another thing that came out of that Friday meeting, is Judge Hurley did tell them they weren’t going to be able to use our roads, because our roads will not handle truck traffic . . . and that is a true statement,” said Wilson. 

“The last thing we want to happen on Bruce Road or Old Applewhite Road is TXDOT (Texas Department of Transportation) involvement,” said Wilson.

If TXDOT is kept out of it, there is more local control. The more local control you have, the better off you are.

On Monday, Feb. 6, a group of protestors halted road work being done near the proposed sand mine area. The group was concerned that the work would reinforce culverts, possibly preparing for haul trucks to pass.

County officials maintain that the work was being done to improve the drainage of the culvert and that there was no intent to increase the load capacity, nor would the improvement have done so.

Wilson added that after the second TV news story, the Preferred Sands President called him and wanted Wilson to know he was not behind any of the work done on Bruce Road.

Similar plants in other cities

Wilson traveled to Brady (approximately 70 miles north of Fredericksburg), recently to see firsthand similar frac sand mines. He described how ugly the plants were.

“In Brady, they don’t have people around. You don’t see houses,” said Wilson.

Wilson also shared that last week archaeologists were at the proposed site doing some studies. He is also trying to have a local engineering firm do an air quality study. 

Another point Wilson made is how this issue really needs to be taken up by the Texas Legislature. 

“What happened in Wisconsin, Minnesota, we don’t need to happen here. They got caught behind the eight ball because they didn’t realize the impact that this type of industry would have on the community and it got past them. However, we have an opportunity in Texas to take a look at it before it gets crazy,” said Wilson. “Texas is much bigger than Wisconsin, but still… responsible placement of these facilities is what I have been saying at every meeting I go to. We are not against the oil industry. We are not against the fracking industry and we are not against the frac sand industry. What we are for is the responsible placement of these types of facilities.”

Wilson also explained the difference between the proposed frac sand mine and the Espey sand mine, which has been here for almost 100 years. They are a sand pit, not a processing plant. The same is true with some other companies in the area. 

A woman from the Ata-Bexar Fire Department said she was worried a frac sand mine would slow down emergency response time. She asked if there would be a Hazmat team and Hazmat equipment there ready just in case. There is a potential for a raging fire or explosion involving chemicals. There are many things to consider. 

 

The group agreed to hold community meetings every two weeks. The next meeting is set for Thursday, Feb. 23, at 6 p.m. The location has yet to be determined.   

 

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