ATASCOSA COUNTY, Texas - In a rare public meeting, members of the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality answered questions from Atascosa County residents over their concerns about a new sand-mining operation set to be built on nearly 2,500 acres in the county.
The meeting was supposed to focus on air-quality concerns, but residents also asked multiple questions about water protection, with the proposed processing site sitting near the Carrizo-Wilcox aquifer recharge zone.
“We’re more worried about the placement over our aquifer,” resident James Green said. “Once you ruin the aquifer, it ruins the water for everybody. Animals can’t drink it. We can’t farm with it.”
Responded Sam Short, a manager in the permits division of TCEQ: “At this time, it’s our understanding of the process that they’re mining wet sand and they’ll add more water to it to do something called hydrosizing of the sand."
T.J. Doyle, president of Preferred Sands, parent company of the Texas operation, said their initial permit does not include the use of any detergents in the water, but said they could apply for that as the operation grows.
“The company is kind of gaming the system as some people have put it,” Green said. “They come in and ask for the bare minimums and then they’re like, ‘OK, we’re going to use chemicals later.’”
Said Doyle: “We’ve voluntarily postponed the start of construction so we could understand their concerns and see if we can address as many as possible, if not all of them."
With regards to air quality, the TCEQ conducted several investigations and found no cause for concern.
“When we investigated, this type of sand that’s being used is low in silica, so we wouldn’t expect there to be a lot of crystalline silica on site,” said Dr. Tiffany Bredfeldt, TCEQ senior toxicologist. “In addition, we’ve investigated the size of particulate matter that’s available on site, or would be produced on site, in this particular process, and it’s so large that it’s not respirable or inhalable for people.”
Doyle said the company will have a revised plan to present to residents in a few weeks, and said the company does plan to begin construction soon with hopes to finish in seven months.
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