Cedar Park - Leander | November 2020

Aggregate Production OPERATIONS 101 Many aggregate production operations are major businesses in Williamson County. Here are some frequently asked questions answered. What is an aggregate

CONTINUED FROM 1 From 2015 to 2020 the estimated number of regis- tered quarries and other aggregate production facili- ties operating in Texas jumped from about 50 to more than 1,000, many of which are located in Central Texas—home to some of the fastest-growing counties in the country, according to Texas for Responsible Aggregate Mining data. “This has all just exploded in the last couple of years. It’s unbelievable how fast this [industry] is run- ning,” TRAM spokesperson Fermin Ortiz said. “But we’ve got to gure out a way to make it better and more responsible because we’re not going to stop it.” As Williamson County continues to be one of the highest-growth counties in Texas and home to a few of the most rapidly growing cities in the state accord- ing to the U.S. Census Bureau, the aggregate produc- tion operations, or APOs, supply needed construction materials as well as jobs, Ortiz said. He added that APOs being located near major growth sectors also makes the most business sense, as suppliers need to be near buyers in order to reduce costs. But the issue does not lie with their existence, Ortiz said. Instead, it is the damage the industry could cause if it remains deregulated. For example, air quality can be hindered as blasts often send dust into the air that is then breathed in by community members, potentially negatively impacting their health. The APOs, often referred to as a quarry, also use high amounts of water at about 50 gallons of water per ton of aggregate mined, accord- ing to TRAM data. A small mine can produce a couple thousand tons a day, Ortiz said, adding that he would like a commitment by quarries to use recycled water for this reason. Heavy truck loads also tear up roadways, which are repaired at the taxpayer’s expense, and the constant noise and odor, as well as destruction of natural hab- itats, can be a detriment to quality of life, Ortiz said. “There are good ways to do good business, you don’t have to take the shortcuts and take the quick prots,” Ortiz said. “If you want to stay in business long term, you want to be a good neighbor, [and] you want to do it right.” Ortiz, through TRAM, is working to reduce the negative impacts of quarries through regulations and legislative measures. He said he feels it is Tex- ans responsibility to hold large mining businesses accountable, particularly those who are interested in making as much money as possible regardless of the negative health and trac impacts it may cause. “This is a non-partisan issue. This is about what we leave to our great-grandchildren and children going through generations,” he said. “The regulations that we do or don’t have today are going to negatively impact the future, and it’s our responsibility to all join together to push back and have some sensible regula- tions to slow down the greedy [operators].” Community concern Williamson County resident Tom Brothers’ issues with the APO kitty corner from his property did not arise until CC Aggregates LLC took over the quarry about six years ago. Brothers said in his 25 years of living in his home, previous quarry owners were relatively respectful, notifying him of loud blasts and xing any damage

his property incurred. But when CC Aggregates took over, he began to notice negative impacts on his quality of life. Now, Brothers said he lives with loudmining sounds that sometimes go late into the evening, blasts with limited warning and a dust-covered home. He added that each day at least 100, if not more, loaded trucks drive well above the posted 25 miles per hour speed limit on the small country road in front of his property, making him fearful of being in a car accident. “I’m not against business, I’m not against people making money, but I am against people driving me out of my home making it where I can’t breathe, making where it’s unsafe for me to leavemy home and running all kinds of days and nights and all kinds of hours,” Brothers said. While Brothers also noted foundational issues on his home and lime build up on his faucets, he does not have proof it is due to the quarry across the street. CC Aggregates did not respond to a request for com- ment from Community Impact Newspaper . Williamson County resident Michael Spano said blasting in the quarry has shaken his and his neigh- bor’s homes hard enough that windows rattle and pic- ture frames fall from the walls. Spano, who is also a spokesperson for Coalition for Responsible Environmental Aggregate Mining or CREAM, a local organization also seeking an increase to quarry regulations, said the blasts are also occurring more often and with little to no warning. He added that beyond its impact to their environ- ment, health and quality of life, he is also concerned of what it could mean for their property values. All of these combined has led to formation of local coalitions such as CREAM, across Texas, Spano said. “I think a lot of people are really starting to see the optics and feel the optics of it. And I think people are kind of tired,” Spano said. “As citizens, you just want to feel that someone is looking out for us and has our Rock mining operations in Texas were deregu- lated in 2005 to allow for an increase in needed infra- structure and to create jobs, state Rep. Terry Wilson, RGeorgetown, said. Since then, it has grown into a $2.4 billion industry, according to TRAM data. By deregulating, required permits through the TCEQ, the United States Army Corps of Engineers and Texas Parks and Wildlife, among others, were easier to obtain. In fact, from 2009 to 2019, 1,220 air qual- ity permit applications from throughout Texas were submitted to TCEQ, to which 1,143 were approved, ve were denied and 72 were withdrawn, according to TRAM data. But even with the easy access to permits and a few regulations in place, Ortiz said there is limited over- sight as regulatory agencies have been stripped of any signicant power. “Most of the regulatory bodies, as we have them in Texas today, are designed to give out permits,” Ortiz said. “The advantage is to the company unless they do something very egregious.” Now, Texas is one of only seven states without a comprehensive mining regulation. This is what Wil- son, who represents parts of Williamson, Burnet and Milam counties, would like to x. interests in mind.” Boomingbusiness

production operation?

Aggregate production operations, or APOs, are a type of quarry. They are large, deep pits that are blasted into in order to collect stone and other materials to be transported and later converted into concrete and building materials. What does an APO produce? The APOs in Williamson County mostly produce sand, gravel and crushed rock to be used for concrete and other building materials. How big is the industry? From 2015 to 2020, the number of registered quarries and other aggregate production facilities operating in Texas is estimated to have jumped from about 50 to nearly 1,000. Aggregate production is a $2.4 billion industry, according to TRAM. Who is in charge of oversight? APOs are required to acquire several permits from dierent state agencies to operate depending on the type of business they are doing. Some regulatory agencies include the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality, United States Army Corps of Engineers and the Texas Parks and Wildlife, among others. What does it mean for an industry to be deregulated? In 2005, Texas deregulated its rock mining industry, which made it easier to obtain mining permits. At the time, the deregulation was done to add jobs and infrastructure. Now, Texas is one of seven states that does not have comprehensive mining regulations.

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SOURCE: TEXAS FOR RESPONSIBLE AGGREGATE MINING COMMUNITY IMPACT NEWSPAPER

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