Atascosa and Bexar County residents are invited to a public forum Thursday, March 23, to share their questions with Sand Mining of Texas representatives. The public forum will be hosted by Not Just Dust-Bruce Rd. and is set to begin at 6:30 p.m. at the Poteet VFW Hall on Highway 16.
Sand Mining of Texas is the company planning to build a frac sand processing facility in northern Atascosa County and Bexar County.
At the last community meeting on March 9, Not Just Dust president Russell Wilson gave an update on the proposed frac sand mine. He invited everyone to attend the Atascosa County Commissioners Court meeting, which was held March 13. At the meeting, Commissioners granted a request for Sand Mining of Texas, its surveyors and engineers to conduct geotechnical investigations and existing survey in the county right-of-way, all to advance the design of a roadway capable of supporting traffic generated and associated with the sand processing facility planned to be built in Atascosa County.
Not Just Dust members attended Commisioners Court to show their support of designating Bruce and Old Applewhite Roads as No Through Truck Traffic roads. A public hearing is set at Commissioners Court on March 27 at 9 a.m. on the matter.
Wilson shared some of the groups main concerns: placing such a facility in a highly-populated area, placing it right on top of the Wilcox/Queen City Aquifer recharge zone, as well as the high rate of traffic resulting from producing 400 tons per hour.
That is a truck every minute and a half, 24 hours a day, seven days a week. That is not good for the environment. That is not good for the roads. Weve got school kids being picked up on those roads. For people that live out here, their quality of life is going to suffer, said Wilson.
The group has talked to the Texas Historical Commission, regarding the Battle of Medina site. However, there is not much that can be done, since the exact location of the historic battle is not known. The concerned citizens group is trying their best to keep the sand mine from being built, but as Wilson noted, this is not easy to do. He then pointed out all of the land that has been purchased already. It is hoped that the site will at least move to another area that is not as populated by a residential area, or that the impact can be minimized.
Wilson also discussed the long-term effects, which he witnessed after visiting similar sand operations in Brady, Texas. There are seven sand operations there- with five far away from residents and two of them close by to residents. He noticed the impact those trucks have had in that area. Wilson expressed concern that if the sand mine moves to Atascosa/Bexar Counties, others will also want to locate in this area. Since they would not be able to move east or west, said Wilson, they would have to go south.
The sand mine company sent three Not Just Dust members to tour their sand mine in Blair, Wisconsin earlier this week. They will be reporting back to the group on how the trip went and will share their impressions of the working mine and processing plant.
Wilson spoke to State Representative Ryan Guillen about the need to address this issue legislatively. Senator Carlos Uresti also wrote to the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality, expressing his opposition to the sand mining operation, citing the concerns made by Atascosa and Bexar County residents.
Wilson spoke on how he has not lived in the area long, but he chose Atascosa County for its beautiful countryside. Now he fears that will be lost.
Some of the questions the group has for the company: Can you guarantee my health? What are the consequences if the company is non-compliant with regulations? What chemicals are going to be used?
The audience also heard from Dr. AJ DiCaro, who has a clinic in San Antonio. He outlined the respiratory effects associated with silica exposure. Especially at risk are those who already have respiratory and/or cardiovascular problems such as COPD or pulmonary fibrosis. Using a sponge, he demonstrated how the lungs function.
He also brought booklets from the Wisconsin Department of Health Services and Environmental Working Group explaining how respirable crystalline silica (RCS) can impact health. Health risks arise when silica particles are small enough to get into the deepest parts of the lungs and freshly crushed silica is considered more damaging to the respiratory system than aged silica, which has been weathered.
DiCaro asked the audience how many get an annual exam. If the proposed site becomes reality, he suggested that everyone have a chest X-ray once a year and keep their medical records. This is one way of personally monitoring your health.
Not Just Dust vice-president Jessie Hardy said the group is working on coordinating a place that everyone can go to have baseline tests done on their health. So in the future, residents can compare their health before and after the sand plant.