Online real estate ads for the Alanna Heights subdivision just north of Poteet paint a picture of a serene, quiet neighborhood perfect to reside in. Atascosa County newcomer Leroy Myers had that same vision in mind.
Leroy and wife Rosie were shocked when they moved in approximately two months ago and discovered a new neighbor moving in directly behind them- a frac sand mine. The company is Stillman Enterprises. Redi-Frac is contracted out to Stillman.
The Myers family left Corpus Christi last August. After some unsuccessful attempts to buy a home, Myers found the property in Alanna Heights. They spoke with the builder and were able to have a home built within their budget. The property was purchased the end of September and construction wrapped up March 10. He questions why no one could have made him aware of the frac sand mine behind his house, while it was being constructed.
You see the big pit here… there are 220 acres they are going to work on, said Myers.
The last couple of weeks, it is pretty obvious they are setting up a frac sand processing plant, three-tenths of a mile from our back door. Now they are up to about 200 feet from the fence line.
His home is approximately 60 feet from his property line, which Myers shared at the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality meeting on May 11.
Myers added, They are not even operating the plant right now, but they are excavating. They are moving topsoil around.
He reached out to Jessica Hardy of the Not Just Dust- Bruce Rd. concerned citizens group and attended one of the meetings. However, his work schedule makes it difficult to attend more. He works in the oilfield and said he has no objections to these companies.
But, they belong in the oilfield.
His neighbors, Lance and Joann Biddle live on the cul-de-sac. Myers often cannot see their home because of all the dust. The Biddles and another neighbor just down the road, Ynes Bosquez also shared how concerned they are. The Biddells have lived there since 2007, while Bosquez has lived there since January 2012.
Bosquez also attended the recent TCEQ meeting. The men felt they were given the run-around.
Myers said they are close enough to feel the track equipment in their house.
Thursday night after the meeting, I jumped out of bed. It sounded like a crash outside my window. They loaded up, backed up the truck… this was at 12:30 a.m.
The Biddells said they load at all hours throughout the night. The property is right behind their house, off the easement road, which is on the back of his property line. Lance said they park in their trucks just three feet from the property line.
Bosquez recalled how the first thing he heard after moving in was the possibility of a motorcycle track. Later it was fenced in.
Bosquez emphasizes, This is not about the sand… it is all about the water. It could get into the aquifer or the well, draw all the water they need, and then they dont have to pay for it. Then when it runs out, it goes right back into the aquifer and now there is no sand to filter the water, because they have taken the sand. So the water goes back and then contaminates the aquifer.
If they use chemicals, what type of reaction are these chemicals going to have with the natural minerals in the ground? asked Myers.
My dog is the closest one to the ground in my household and now he is coughing and hacking like he is a cat, trying to cough up a hair ball? The first thing that comes to my mind is the dust. Everything is coming in, said Myers.
Bosquez said he no longer cares to work in his yard anymore. Both Bosquez and the Biddles have above-ground swimming pools.
Joanne spoke on how they can file a nuisance grievance, because the state said anything that restricts you from using your property for personal enjoyment for its original intent is grounds to do so.
Bosquez said what upset him the most from the TCEQ meeting is when they said if the companies turned in their paperwork, as long as everything is in order, all their Is are dotted and Ts are crossed, they give them a permit.But they dont come out and do a site inspection! So every three years they will come out and inspect these guys. And then TCEQ said if there is a spill the companies will report it. I said at the meeting, they have been working down here without a permit since they started, and using this other highway, piggy-backing off of them. Do you really think if they have a spill they are going to let you know?
Myers and his neighbors also discussed the flashing lights after dark, the fact that they live in a residential area and having to use big fans inside their homes to drown out the noise.
He fears that what has happened in Hebbronville in Jim Hogg County will happen here, where his parents moved the family to when he was in his teens. He shared TCEQ water quality reports from the Hebbronville Public Water System in 2015, citing that water samples showed high levels of the contaminant arsenic. This has gone on for many years.
This is only part of the potential damage that could be coming. This is what Atascosa County residents have to look forward to, unless proactive action is taken.
At the TCEQ meeting, Myers invited them to take a trip to his house to see for themselves. The residents are still waiting.