Plans to locate a temporary concrete batch plant near the Willow Waterhole Greenway are stirring up controversy in Southwest Houston.
In a meeting with about three dozen community members last week, state Rep. Borris Miles (D-146) said he intends to request a public hearing before the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality on Southern Crushed Concrete’s application for an air permit to operate a portable concrete plant for 180 days at 5001 Gasmer Dr.
Miles says the company has a history of permit violations and previously sued the city of Houston over its attempt to regulate it. The case eventually was decided in the company's favor at the Texas Supreme Court, he said.
In addition, eight other air permits are in force within a two-mile radius of the SCC yard, which Miles said heightens his concern about air quality in the area.
“I’m going to ask for a hearing. But in addition to that, I’m going to also ask that residents who are affected within 440 yards (of the site) file a request as well,” Miles said.
That would include the Dominican Sisters of Mary Immaculate Province, who were represented at the meeting, and another neighbor, Chris Zider. Willow Waterhole also is within the 440 yards.
Zider said his family has had issues with SCC in the past. The site is currently used as a pug mill.
“I’ve never seen any plumes, but I’m sure there is some kind of fine particulate that floats out and affects certain types of metal in the area,” Zider said.
SCC did not return The Examiner’s phone calls or an email for input on this story.
Miles was accompanied at the meeting by his Chief of Staff Rob Borja and Adrian Shelley, executive director with the nonprofit Air Alliance Houston.
Shelley urged residents to document instances where fine particulate dust leaves the site. Concrete dust could contribute to lung disease and existing pulmonary and heart disease.
“We may be able to slow the train down, and they’d be so deterred they go somewhere else,” Miles said.
While Willow Waterhole is being developed as a flood control facility along Brays Bayou, it also serves as a 280-acre public green space. Areas around the detention ponds are designed for wildlife conservation and passive recreation and include walking trails and gazebos. It is well-known for bird-watching and as a musical entertainment venue. Last November, the site was selected for the nation’s eighth Levitt Pavilion, which would annually stage 50 concerts free to the public. Fundraising for the $10 million proposal is under way.
Miles acknowledged the community’s work to develop the green space for recreation.
“Communities and industry have to work together,” he said. “But when you don’t come to us first, and you think you have the power to shove it down our throats ... this gets kind of personal with me,” Miles said.