Serving Kerr County with a Conscience

Do quarry neighbors have rights?


Our recent rains have been great, but KCC folks have been in the county a goodly many years, and we know that with summer upon us, the dust and noise from our neighboring quarries will soon pick up again.

There’s nothing we can do about it.

As our county officials support the industrialization of the Highway 27 corridor, and while all that dust and noise billows up from the quarry properties, mine owners are allowed to do whatever they choose. They are big business. I’m just a private landowner.

Over here on my property, I breathe nasty air, and I can’t even enjoy a peaceful evening, relaxing in my own home, much less by the river, not with the quarries pounding away, day and night, night and day.

At a town hall meeting in New Braunfels, over in Comal County, I heard a Martin Marietta lobbyist boldly state that their company adheres to all state laws. Yet some Comal County residents had unanswered complaints about broken windows, cracked foundations and caved-in wells from blasting at the neighboring Martin Marietta mine.

In actuality, there are no Texas state laws regulating quarry operations.

Also, that lobbyist failed to inform the audience that he and other powerful quarry lobbyists had successfully defeated a modest regulatory bill previously introduced by Texas State Senator Troy Fraser. The only piece of the bill to survive was a clause stating that all gravel loads on a public road must be covered.

Texas does have laws specific to air quality which govern emissions from any industrial operation. The Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ) applies these laws to quarry operations in an effort to control emissions of particulates and dust into the air. A drive down Highway 27 from Kerrville to Comfort will verify the absence of enforcement as the ground dries out and summer operations crank up.

Dust billows from the pits and on-site roads. White dirt builds up on the highway at the pit entrances. Quarry neighbors ought to be able to expect a few neighborly courtesies from the pit owners.

All this particular landowner is asking for is a sensible, decent, and neighborly approach to their business model. This would include...
  • reasonable hours of operation,
  • noise control,
  • dust control from the mining operations and on-site roads,
  • reasonable protection of the river, river bottom and floodplain; and,
  • remediation when the mines are depleted.
Moreover, we need our local government’s help.

Our elected officials should report to water authorities, such as the TCEQ and HGCD, the amount of river- and well water that is being used to facilitate mining, gravel-washing processes and dust control.

We also need an objective assessment by those officials on the short term tax gain vs. the long term loss of land productivity, river tourism and road repairs caused by heavy truck traffic. They should regularly monitor the particulate matter that is emitted into the air from the cluster of five quarries within our small area.

Finally, we need law enforcement and protection from the speeding trucks and flying gravel.

I think we need a Quarry Neighbor’s Bill of Rights. That might get someone interested in our plight. But the rain today is so nice. I could just sit here and look at the dust on my shelves, at the pictures of my loved ones and at my precious knickknacks. Why not look outside and enjoy the beautiful Hill Country? Because just across the fence, I can see what the miners are doing to these beautiful hills…and it’s the pits!

Frances Lovett

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