Residents rally to oppose concrete batch plant near schools in far north Fort Worth

Roughly 100 people lobbied a state environmental agency Monday to kill a proposed concrete plant in far north Fort Worth.

They were speaking at a meeting organized by the Texas Commission for Environmental Quality to get public feedback on an air quality permit application by compost and mulch company The Organic Recycler. The company needs the permit to operate the plant at 13001 Old Denton Road.

Residents speaking Monday brought up concerns about health impacts, the proposed plant’s proximity to schools and the relative lack of oversight from TCEQ once the plant is up and running. Seven schools are within 4 miles of the site and a high school is planned a mile south of it.

Representatives for the state agency cautioned residents not to confuse the proposed concrete plant with a cement kiln.

Cement is made by grinding down materials like limestone and clay into a fine powder before it heated to around 2,600 degrees Fahrenheit. Concrete is made by mixing cement with sand and gravel.

It’s like making a cake, said Josh Leftwich, president of the Texas Aggregates and Concrete Association, an industry trade group.

“You take flower, sugar and water to make something, and concrete is basically the same thing,” he said.

The issue is with cement, which can be broken down into small particles that cause damage to people’s health.

That’s why companies like The Organic Recycler need to get air quality permits to make sure they have the proper controls in place to prevent cement from blowing around, Leftwich said.

TCEQ considers concrete batch plants to be low risk when it comes to impacts on environmental quality, so it doesn’t proactively check up on these plants, said Kimberli Fowler, an official the TCEQ office responsible for Metroplex.

Chris Hall, who lives just south of the proposed plant, questioned how residents are supposed to tell the difference between pollen and pollution coming from the plant.

“That’s not our job to watch this. That’s your job to protect us,” Hall told the panel.

Landscape supply company The Organic Recycler wants to start making concrete at its facility at 13001 Old Denton Rd.
Landscape supply company The Organic Recycler wants to start making concrete at its facility at 13001 Old Denton Rd.

The plant will focus on making small batches of concrete for individual home and landscaping projects, said Timothy Sansone, the managing partner at The Organic Recycler.

While the permit allows it to make enough concrete to fill 20 trucks an hour, the plant’s capacity will only allow it to produce half that much, he said.

The company will also load its trucks about 150 feet from its property line, and will use a filtration system to capture 99.5% of all dust particles released by the loading process.

That translates to about one-tenth of a pound per hour of operation or a quarter of a ton per year, said Melissa Fitts, an environmental consultant hired by The Organic Recyler to manage the air quality permitting process.

Still, residents questioned why the plant couldn’t be located somewhere else.

Sansone noted that Fort Worth city council member Alan Blaylock had yet to offer an alternative location. Blaylock shot back during the comment period that Sansone had canceled a meeting to discuss the issue without rescheduling.

State Rep. Nate Schatzline, whose district includes the proposed plant, joined Blaylock and the residents present in their opposition to the plant.

He said the plant is a direct threat to children’s health, citing Environmental Protection Agency literature on the health effects of cement manufacturing.

“This is a bipartisan issue where we can all agree that the next generation deserves a healthy environment to play sports and go to school,” he said.

Blaylock also raised concerns about impacts on traffic and roads that aren’t built to handle repeated stress from heavy concrete mixing trucks.

He announced he plans to bring forth new regulations that will force future concrete plants to get a special land use permit to operate in the city of Fort Worth.

The comment period for the plant runs until 11:59 p.m. Wednesday, April 17. After that, TCEQ will take the public’s comments into consideration along with the technical aspects of the application before deciding whether to approve the permit.