By Anne Marie Kilday
EAST ALDINE – Raising concerns among many residents, a company based in La Porte proposes to build and operate a concrete-making plant near Little York Road at the Eastex Freeway, next to a county park and a residential subdivision, in the East Aldine Management District.
Residents, community representatives and the Air Alliance of Houston group worry that the plant would endanger the health of people in the area, reduce property values and create related problems.
The proposed plant is located next to the Tasfield neighborhood and near the recently upgraded and reequipped James Driver Park.
The Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ) will conduct a public meeting about the proposal at 7 p.m. Thursday, April 7, at the East Aldine Town Center, 2909 East Amphitheater Drive at Aldine Mail Route Road.
The TCEQ leaves no doubt that the plant would emit particles of cement, road dust, and other substances. But that doesn’t mean the state is convinced the operation could damage the health of nearby residents and park users.
In fact, the agency’s executive director has ruled on a preliminary basis that the plant’s permit application “meets all of the requirements of a standard permit authorized by (state regulations) which would establish the conditions under which the plant must operate.”
A final decision will come sometime after the meeting, which will include an informal question and answer session and a public comment period, according to the TCEQ.
However, members of the public who wish to make comments for the TCEQ to formally consider should submit them in writing during or before the public meeting. Go online to https://www14.tceq.texas.gov/epic/eComment/, fill in the project’s pending permit number, 167453, and enter a comment, or send it by mail to the Office of the Chief Clerk, TCEQ, Mail Code MC-105, P.O. Box 13087, Austin, Texas 78711-3087.
The La Porte-based Avant-Garde Concrete Co. started seeking the state’s permission to create the plant at 10945 Eastex Freeway in December. Company owner Meliton Gomez said he has been distressed by opposition to his proposal. By living in La Porte, he said, he has seen that residential neighborhoods can co-exist safely with industrial facilities.
“I am all for regulation,” Gomez said. “I have lived in La Porte long enough to see that it can make a real difference.”
In fact, Gomez said that he and his son are hoping to buy a home in the East Aldine area to avoid a long commute to their proposed new business.
Gomez said he plans to attend the public meeting.
“We will strive to be good community partners,” Gomez said. “Responsible compliance with environmental and safety requirements is paramount to our operations. We will have onsite compliance and reporting logs.”
“In addition to adhering to numerous state and federal regulations, (the company) will incorporate best management practices to mitigate airborne emissions, noise control and truck traffic,” Gomez said.
But Flor Zarzosa, a Tasfield subdivision resident, said she is very unhappy about the proposed plant.
“Having a cement plant will bring in a lot of dust,” she said. “We already have problems with people burning trash; we’ve complained about that.
“Everybody in my community is concerned,” Zarzosa said. “Mainly, it’s because of the kids who play outside. Our neighborhood isn’t the best, but we are fighting to keep it clean and keep it decent.”
“And what’s going to happen to the value of our homes? It’s going to affect us on so many levels,” Zarzosa said.
State Rep. Armando Walle requested the public meeting and “has become the flag-bearer” for residents in his district who have raised concerns about the proposed plant, said Richard Cantu, executive director of the East Aldine Management District.
The District plans to file a letter with TCEQ opposing the proposed plant.
The project also has drawn the concerns of state Sen. Carol Alvarado and Harris County Precinct 2 Commissioner Adrian Garcia. He led the redevelopment of James Driver Park, which was designed specifically to be an “all access park” to accommodate people with physical challenges or disabilities.
Air Alliance of Houston has raised concerns about the proposed plant’s potential to contribute to air pollution in East Aldine. In a Feb. 14 letter to TCEQ, Air Alliance opposed the approval of a permit for Gomez, and the management district plans to send a similar letter.
The area is already home to four concrete plants, Cantu noted.
Because the proposed site is in unincorporated Harris County without municipal trash removal, some East Aldine residents frequently burn trash, which can contribute to air pollution.
“It wouldn’t surprise me to find that there is a higher rate of breathing problems, such as asthma, in the community,” Cantu said.
In addition to dust and air pollution, Cantu said heavy trucks and equipment used by the concrete plants in the area contribute to damage to roads and other infrastructure.
Gomez, the president of Avante, listed in writing some actions he said the plant will carry out:
– A barrier to control dust, noise, and light suppression around the site.
– Concrete paving of the high-traffic areas on the site, along plant-bunkered aggregate, to minimize potential dust.
– Sloping truck loading and truck washing areas to collect water run-off in basins.
– A sprinkler system and wheel truck wash areas to minimize dust and dirt leaving the site.
– Minimal plant lighting to prevent creation of a visual nuisance at night.