EPA to launch investigation into permitting process for concrete batch plans in Harris County

Concrete batch plants' permit process and locations

HOUSTON – The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is planning to launch an investigation into permitting processes for concrete batch plants in Harris County.

The EPA sent a four-page letter to Harris County Attorney Christian Menefee’s office saying it plans to investigate the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ) after receiving two complaints – one in April and one in May. The complaints allege the TCEQ has been discriminatory with public participation, based on race, regarding its concrete batch permit process.

“People in our community know the harms of these plants all too well. We have 140 concrete batch plants throughout Harris County and they are hyper-concentrated in areas that have a disproportionate amount of Black and Latino residents and folks from low-income households,” Menefee said.

He added that those communities have been outspoken about those plants being built in their neighborhoods due to the health risk the plants pose.

“Yet time and again, the TCEQ has approved permits for additional plants in these very same neighborhoods and failed to ensure that the pollution that comes out of these plants does not harm human health and the environment,” the county attorney added.

Huey German-Wilson is the President of Trinity Garden’s Super Neighborhood Alliance. Wilson said the concrete batch plant off Homestead near 610 in northeast Houston has been a less than the ideal neighbor. She said it’s one of eight within a 10-mile radius polluting the air and affecting the community’s quality of life.

“All of our community is a Black and Brown community,” Wilson said. “We’re a poor community, we’re an older community, and so, it exacerbates all issues we have around environmental concerns.

Wilson was among the large group of community advocates, local leaders and state leaders that stood behind Menefee Tuesday morning during a press conference to announce the EPA’s investigation. She said she welcomes the investigation into the TCEQ.

“We’re excited because nobody heard our voices and finally it appears that somebody hears us,” Wilson added. “The EPA thinks that it’s important enough to come in and investigate and we’re excited about that as a community.”

Menefee said his office commissioned an independent air modeling, which was not in line with what the TCEQ told the public.

“Our modeling shows that the air that is emitted in these plants is harmful to the people, to the seniors, to the kids, to the neighbors who breathe it on,” Menefee added. “It’s time for the TCEQ to do its job of keeping its community safe. We fought and fought with them and things aren’t getting better for these communities. I’m glad the community is stepping up for these residents.”

The TCEQ declined KPRC2′s request for comment.

There’s no word on when the EPA’s investigation will begin or what it will entail.

Watch the full news conference below: