Neighbors collecting testimonials against Southwest Side Scrap Yard over air quality concerns

Neighbors held a meeting in November with state and city officials to discuss growing concerns about multiple fires at Monterrey Iron & Metal Recycling

SAN ANTONIO – Even in a new year, the Thompson Neighborhood deals with old problems.

“Nobody should have to live that way,” said Rudy Lopez, the vice president of the Thompson Neighborhood Association. “Right now, the focus is simply to meet with the people in our community, finding out where they were at when it happened and how it affected them.”

Lopez is leading neighborhood efforts to address safety concerns about living near Monterrey Iron & Metal, a scrap yard on Frio City Road. With the new year underway, neighbors are taking down testimonials and hoping to hand-deliver them to city and state officials, including state Sen. Jose Menendez. Residents like Joey Cipriano said these conversations are long overdue.

“Who knows what could happen? Who knows what we’re all breathing in?” Cipriano said. “I tell people, ‘Imagine living in a war zone when you don’t know when you’re going to hear the explosion.’”

Neighbors report fires, explosions and smoke at Monterrey Iron. KSAT 12 video archives show SAFD has responded to calls at this scrap yard for nearly a decade. During the most recent fire, on Sept. 21, SAFD crews responded to the scene around 3:30 p.m. They closed the call just after 1 a.m. on the early morning of Sept. 22.

In November, the San Antonio Fire Department confirmed that units have responded to six reported structure fire calls at the scrap yard located on Frio City Road since 2021.

This data and others from the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ) were discussed in November. More than 50 neighbors came forward with complaints during a neighborhood meeting. The group pled to state and city officials for help. Menendez was in attendance at the meeting.

“Clearly, a community felt it necessary to talk to their senator to get special attention about this issue,” Cipriano said.

Since that meeting, Monterrey Iron confirmed to KSAT 12 in a statement that there are no longer any open investigations into incidents at the scrap yard in 2024. TCEQ sent KSAT 12 the following data via email:

“In total, the San Antonio Region Office has conducted 32 investigations at Monterrey Iron and Metal, including seven in the last 2 years. Six of these investigations were conducted as a result of complaints filed against the facility. Additionally, the Emissions Event Review Section in the Critical Infrastructure Division investigated two emissions events reported to the TCEQ in 2023 by the entity. Our records indicate that Notices of Violation were issued to the facility on January 21, 2000, January 24, 2011, July 24, 2015, May 31, 2016, June 14, 2019, December 13, 2019, February 24, 2023, and March 24, 2023 (subsequently withdrawn). An Area of Concern was also provided to the facility on June 30, 2003. All of the violations have since been resolved.”

Monterrey Iron emailed KSAT 12 a new statement this week, saying the company takes neighbors’ concerns seriously:

“Since the last time we spoke, the TCEQ completed their incident investigation on the September fire. On December 18, the Emissions Event Review Section determined that the incident was a non-reportable event, meaning that Monterrey Iron & Metal did not contribute to the factors that caused the fire. Additionally, there are no open investigations with the TCEQ.

“We have invested heavily in detection systems (thermal and visual cameras), mitigation systems (sprinklers and water trucks onsite), safety planning (manual inspections and routine maintenance) and expert hazard prevention consulting to mitigate the risk and lessen the effects of flare-ups. We take every precaution and follow strict intake processes to ensure we are compliant with state and local regulations when it comes to air and water quality.

“We continue to welcome inquiries and are open to dialogue about our safety measures with neighborhood members, community organizers, local and state officials.”

The Environmental Protection Agency Region 6 spokesperson confirmed that TCEQ is the “lead environmental authority on this matter.”

“It’s not about having a business shut down. There’s nobody in the community that’s asking that. But what we are asking for is just some sort of resolution to a problem,” Cipriano said.

At the city level, a spokesperson for District 5 Councilwoman Teri Castillo said in part that she submitted a Council Consideration Request to try to improve the property and fire code.

Neighbors like Lopez say it’s not enough. And that’s why they’re working now to kick off safety efforts in 2024.

“This neighborhood is my heart,” Lopez said. “My hope for 2024 is if there is a resolution to this problem and that the folks who are supposed to be policing are actually policing.”

To read more on neighborhood concerns, click here.

About the Authors

Avery Everett is a news reporter and multimedia journalist at KSAT 12 News. Avery is a Philadelphia native. If she’s not at the station, she’s either on a hiking or biking trail. A lover of charcuterie boards and chocolate chip cookies, Avery’s also looking forward to eating her way through San Antonio, one taco shop at a time!

Joe Arredondo is a photojournalist at KSAT 12.

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