Hundreds of Tarrant residents ask state to stop concrete plant. ‘The buck stops with you’

dfwnewsa | December 12, 2023 | 1 | Fort Worth , Fort Worth News

Hundreds of Tarrant residents ask state to stop concrete plant. ‘The buck stops with you’

Tom Pendergras, who lives within 440 yards of a proposed concrete batch plant in Rendon, asks a question during a Dec. 11, 2023, public meeting hosted by the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality. The meeting at Anchora Event Center lasted more than three hours and attracted hundreds of residents. (Emily Wolf | Fort Worth Report)
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With a procedure for her chronic liver condition scheduled at Medical City Fort Worth the next morning, Donna K. Phillips should have been resting and fasting to prepare for the operation. But speaking out against the concrete batch plant trying to move in next door was too important to stay home, she said. 

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“Airborne volatile organic compounds and particle matter associated with concrete batch plants have been shown to damage the liver and even cause liver fibrosis,” Phillips said. “This plant will not only condemn many of us to an early grave but to years of poor health and lower quality of life.” 

Phillips was among hundreds of Tarrant County residents who attended a Dec. 11 public meeting to demand that J7 Ready Mix take their plans for a concrete batch plant somewhere else. 

The company has applied for a state air quality permit to open a new batch plant in Rendon, an unincorporated community between Burleson and Mansfield. Twenty-six homes sit across from the site, along with an event venue, restaurants and an RV park. Mansfield ISD owns land near the proposed plant site, with plans to build future campuses there. 

After learning of the permit application in September, residents formed nonprofit organization Green Air Solutions and raised upwards of $30,000 in anticipation of a long legal fight against J7 Ready Mix. Neighbors also contacted state Rep. David Cook, R-Mansfield, who asked the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality to organize the public meeting at Mansfield’s Anchora Event Center. 

The commission’s executive director has made a preliminary decision to issue the permit because it meets all applicable rules, according to a notice for the Dec. 11 public meeting. Kim Williamson, who cares for her disabled son at her home about two miles from the proposed plant site, pleaded with the commission to deny the permit. 

“This small community is trusting you to protect us,” she said. “The buck stops with you.” 

How to comment on J7 Ready Mix’s permit application

Members of the public have until Jan. 4, 2024, to comment on J7 Ready Mix’s application to operate a concrete batch plant at 5428 East FM 1187, Burleson, TX. 

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Comment online: Click on this link and enter Permit No. 172856. Click “Next” and you will be taken to a screen to enter your contact information and submit a written comment. Comment by mail: If you wish to comment by mail, you must reference Permit No. 172856 and include your contact information, including a mailing address and phone number. You can mail your comments to: Office of the Chief Clerk, MC 105; TCEQ; PO Box 13087; Austin, TX, 78711-3087.

State Rep. David Cook, R-Mansfield, addresses Texas Commission on Environmental Quality staff during a Dec. 11, 2023, public meeting at Mansfield’s Anchora Event Center. Cook opposed a concrete batch plant permit, citing its negative impact on health and quality of life for Rendon residents. (Emily Wolf | Fort Worth Report)

Residents criticize J7’s application, history in Alvarado

Cook and several residents said J7 Ready Mix’s behavior during the permitting process should convince the state environmental commission to deny the company’s application. 

“Past behavior is a good indicator for future behavior. When you look at this application process that has taken place so far, it’s been very poor,” Cook told environmental commission staff. 

Tarrant County Fire Marshal Randy Renois ordered the company to stop work at 5428 East FM 1187 after J7 began construction without obtaining a permit to be in compliance with fire code. A state environmental investigator found J7 in violation of rules requiring the company to develop a stormwater pollution prevention plan and post signage before starting construction. 

The Texas Commission on Environmental Quality also informed J7 that its original permit application was “deficient” because the company failed to post required signs or make its application available for public viewing in a place located within Tarrant County. Those issues have been addressed with new signage, a republished permit notice in the Fort Worth Star-Telegram and an application available for viewing at the Crowley Public Library, according to state environmental officials. 

“Whether it’s been intentional, whether it’s been deceitful or whatever the case may be, what I can tell you is that it’s been a very sloppy process,” Cook said. 

J7 representatives Richard Mayhew and Fernando Garcia said they have learned from their mistakes during the permitting process and through operating the company’s existing batch plant in Alvarado, which opened in February. 

“I want to apologize to the community of Rendon for the challenges we have faced,” Garcia told the crowd. “This is something new for us as well. … Trust me when I say, we’re doing everything possible to improve the process and do everything we can to improve the batch plant.” 

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Fernando Garcia speaks during a Dec. 11, 2023, public meeting about J7 Ready Mix’s proposal to build a concrete batch plant in Rendon. Garcia apologized for the company’s “challenges” in the community and vowed to improve. (Emily Wolf | Fort Worth Report)

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Mayhew and Garcia fielded questions from residents asking about how the plant would keep dust down and prevent pollutants from reaching the general public. J7 is following industry standards with safety procedures for staff and the environment, Mayhew said. 

Alvarado resident Lloyd Prater said environmental conditions have deteriorated near his home, which sits within 100 feet of J7’s existing concrete batch plant at 5515 East Highway 67. 

Hundreds of trucks come and go beginning at 2 a.m. each day, shining bright lights into his home, Prater said. He’s complained to the company and the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality about J7’s operations with little to show for it. 

“You do not want these people in your neighborhood,” Prater said. “I have to wear a mask and earplugs to sleep in my own house. The dust, you can wash your truck and in 24 hours, you can write your name on your truck.” 

Before Prater’s comments, Mayhew attributed J7’s issues to being a “little uneducated” about the complexities of running a concrete batch plant. 

“Any process that’s went through in our Alvarado plant, we’ve done the best we could to fix the problem,” Mayhew said. “We have no intention of trying to have malintent or bad faith.”

A J7 Ready Mix plant employee walks to his truck at the company’s plant in Alvarado. Company leaders say they’ve implemented tools to control dust and reduce pollution. (Cristian ArguetaSoto | Fort Worth Report)

Potential legal battle between neighbors, concrete plant on the horizon 

Garcia and Mayhew declined to say whether the company will consider withdrawing its application after residents raised concerns about the site’s proximity to Mansfield ISD property and homes. Mansfield ISD trustees are expected to vote on a resolution opposing J7’s proposal during their Dec. 12 meeting. 

Residents have until Jan. 4 to submit comments on J7’s permit online or by mail. From there, Texas Commission on Environmental Quality staff will issue a response to public comments before making a final recommendation on the application. 

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Members of the public have 30 days after the response to comments is issued to apply for a contested case hearing in writing. Under current regulations, only residents living within 440 yards of a proposed concrete batch plant qualify for a contested case hearing. The hearings are similar to civil trials in state district court and are the only venue for Texans to challenge permit applications through the state environmental commission.

Several residents submitted contested case hearing requests during the Dec. 11 meeting. Nonprofit organization Green Air Solutions has retained attorney Adam Friedman, who previously stopped a concrete batch plant proposal from moving forward near Mansfield, for an expected contested case hearing against J7. 

Mike Brewster lives near J7 Ready Mix’s proposed concrete batch plant in Rendon. “I cannot see where the company has considered the community at all,” Brewster told Texas Commission on Environmental Quality staff during a Dec. 11, 2023, public meeting at Mansfield’s Anchora Event Center. (Emily Wolf | Fort Worth Report)

Tom Pendergras, who lives within the 440-yard perimeter, said he’s not hopeful J7 will withdraw its application due to the amount of investment the company has put into the Rendon plant. 

Neither the J7 representatives nor the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality were truly listening to residents, and the environmental agency has limited authority to enforce regulations, Pendergras said.

“These cement plants, they can sit there and run with all the pollutants in the world and nobody is going to do anything,” Pendergras said following the meeting. “I’m really disappointed in what our state has done with this organization. I’m not blaming all these people [working for the state], I’m blaming whoever runs it. They’re not doing their job in organizing it and making it help us.”

Haley Samsel is the environmental reporter for the Fort Worth Report. You can reach them at haley.samsel@fortworthreport.org.

At the Fort Worth Report, news decisions are made independently of our board members and financial supporters. Read more about our editorial independence policy here.

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