Brownsville to relocate business negatively impacting residents with dust

dfwnewsa | October 24, 2023 | 0 | East Texas News , South Texas News

Brownsville to relocate business negatively impacting residents with dust

Milwhite Industries Inc. is seen in Brownsville. (Courtesy: City of Brownsville/Facebook)

City of Brownsville leaders said on Monday that they’re pressing forward with a plan to relocate a specialty minerals plant that has been negatively impacting residents of the Rey Jaime neighborhood for years.

The relocation of Milwhite Industries Inc., 5487 S. Padre Island Hwy., will take time, though the impact on the neighborhood is serious enough that the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality is requiring short-term remediation from the company to cut down on the dust that daily covers Rey Jaime, which lies just to the north of the facility.

That’s according to said Brownsville City Manager Helen Ramirez, who spoke at a press conference at city commission chambers Monday.

“I think that there’s a 30-foot-tall fence that they’re going to have to be putting up and get permitted,” she said. “That’s not enough. There’s state codes and there’s city codes, and we’re going to require them to follow our city codes as well.”

District 2 City Commissioner Linda Macias said she became aware of the issue since being elected to the commission in May, and that the city has since held several town hall meetings with residents of the neighborhood. She also credited Mayor John Cowen, state Sen. Morgan LaMantia and state Rep. Erin Gamez for their involvement, noting that conversations between Milwhite’s owners and city officials led to the realization that “the needs of the company can no longer be met at their current location due to expansion and growth.”

“This relocation will take some time but at least we’re having a conversation and we have a plan of action to move forward with it,” Macias said, adding that Milwhite has been at its current location almost 24 years.

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Cowen thanked the commissioner for taking the lead on the issue, which she alerted him to soon after they were both elected to office in May, he said.

“We toured the neighborhood, we met with residents, we met with the company to highlight the issues,” Cowen said. “It’s an air-quality issue and it’s a noise issue for the residents. As a parent it really breaks my heart to see kids that can’t go outside to play. Walking outside and seeing your cars covered in dust every day, being woken up by machinery at night — that’s not what we want for our residents, but at the same time there’s a balance with making sure our companies here are successful.”

The city is taking a “partnership approach” by working with entities such as the Greater Brownsville Incentives Corporation and the Port of Brownsville to explore options for relocating Milwhite, he said.

“It’s a two-phased approach,” Cowen said. “They have compliance issues currently with the city and with the state that they are addressing. Hopefully that will mitigate some of the issues. But long-term I think it’s pretty clear that this company needs to find another location in order for them to be successful here in Brownsville.”

Ramirez said it’s too early to guess how long the relocation will take, though the public will be kept informed via future press conferences. In terms of Milwhite, the city’s job “is to make sure they understand this is serious.”

“As our residential corridors grow there can be conflict with industries that are heavy industrial,” Ramirez said. “And so it’s important that while our zoning was rezoned correctly for it be residential and industrial, there are some companies that have evolved (over time) and so maybe have greater impact than they did maybe even five, six, seven years ago.”

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