Last week, several West Dallasites turned out to the City Council meeting to oppose a permit for a concrete batch plant in their community and won, but their road to victory could have been smoother.
The permit was for the Latino’s Ready Mix concrete batch plant near West Commerce Street and Sylvan Avenue that residents in the area say pollutes the air and has harms their quality of life.
These plants are known sources of air pollutants like particulate matter and sulfur dioxide, but mobilizing residents and the right city officials to fight these batch plants isn’t easy, Kathryn Bazan, the vice chair of the Dallas Sierra Club’s Eco Action and Conservation Committee, said.
Debbie Solis, who has lived in West Dallas her whole life, told council members: “What we want is the same thing North Dallas has, the same thing the Park Cities have, the same thing Highland Park has. We just want to have clean air. We want to be able to enjoy our homes. We want to be able to live here and not have cement plants at every corner.”
The city already told Latino’s to pack up and relocate in 2019. But, the plant stayed put and applied for a special use permit to continue operating in the city legally. Omar Narvaez, council member for the district the batch plant called home, said it continued operating despite not having secured a new permit from the city.
The council voted unanimously to deny the special use permit with prejudice, forcing the plant to leave the neighborhood.
There are things Dallas can do to make the process of opposing such plants easier and address the effects batch plants have on local air quality and public health. City staff is drawing up plans to do just that. They also hope to increase transparency related to batch plants in Dallas.
In a Nov. 12 memo, city staff laid out potential short and long-term plans for the batch plants.
The short-term plans could be implemented within a couple of weeks or a couple of months. While these would have minimal repercussions to operators and the contractors they serve, they would help keep affected residents informed about the plants.
There are several things the city can do to keep everyone better informed on batch plant operations in Dallas. Now, the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ) gives the city’s air quality compliance team regular status updates on pending permit applications. City staff said these notifications could be expanded to include the City Council members or environmental commissioners for the affected areas.
Additionally, staff said the city could send out newsletters and posts online that point to upcoming TCEQ hearings and explain how to take advantage of opportunities for public comment. The city could also do more thorough inspections of the plants and take further steps to make sure operators are following Dallas’ environmental policy.
The long-term plans could take between 3-6 months to implement. More appropriate locations for the plants could be considered through the city’s updated land use plan and zoning changes. City staff also suggests creating an environmental equity checklist to help minimize the effects of batch plants on neighboring communities.
According to the TCEQ, there are several hundred batch plants in DFW, with about 38 active permits in Dallas. They’re generally located near the Elm Fork/Walnut Hill industrial area, and along the Interstate 20, I-30 and I-45 corridors. Permits for the plants often limit production to 300 cubic yards of concrete per hour and 6,000 cubic yards per day. But several batch plants in Dallas produce more because they have multiple permitted operations on a single site.
Blackmon said, “We can’t continue placing batch plants into communities with the least resistance and in the dead of the night without no one knowing.”