Residents in Fort Bend Co. community fighting proposed concrete batch plant over health, safety concerns

A fight against a proposed concrete batch plant is bringing together the Simonton community, worried about how close it would be to their homes and schools.

The town in Fort Bend County is home to about 840 people.

‘R Construction Company’ wants to open a concrete batch plant along FM 1093 just past Cowhide Drive, which would operate up to 24 hours a day, according to state records.

The company applied for an air quality permit through the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality that residents are hoping the state agency will deny.

“Do we need that around here when there are people living here, who bought here because they wanted peace [and] quiet?” said Eric Duhon, who lives near the proposed site. “You don’t come to the country and live if you don’t want fresh air.”

The plant would be separated from the Valley Lodge neighborhood park only by a hedge of bushes, where neighbors gather for holidays and events, and children play.

For Duhon, the proposal is personal.

His father and stepson both worked with concrete. His father died at 46 and his son now has cancer.

“I guarantee you, anybody that’s working around it much is going to have some long-term effect, even if they don’t have a short-term effect,” he said.

Earlier this week, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency announced it was launching an investigation into the TCEQ’s permitting processes for concrete batch plants, after receiving two complaints alleging the state agency has been discriminatory with public participation based on race.

A spokesperson for TCEQ declined to comment when KPRC 2 asked if the permitting process will be slowed down considering the federal investigation.

Neighbors said they weren’t made aware of the proposed plant until they found out for themselves.

The Simonton City Administrator wrote a letter to the EPA about this proposed plant, asking for the federal agency’s help with the issue.

“TCEQ is REQUIRED to notify the governing bodies of which neither the county (Fort Bend County) NOR the City of Simonton (myself) received notification. In addition, they are REQUIRED to notify all homeowners who live within a quarter-mile radius of the proposed site of the permit filing. NONE of the above were ever notified of the permit filing. By accident, I found out about the permit filing because a sign was posted in front of the land being sold to the permit applicant with the available notice,” City Administrator Jennifer Jones Ward wrote. “A residential neighborhood is no place for a business of this nature with the health and environmental ramifications that if offers.”

Simonton Mayor Laurie Boudreaux told KPRC 2 that the city hasn’t received any formal permit applications from the company that wants to build, which would also require City Council approval for the new site to move forward.

The city has also asked Fort Bend County Commissioners to join Harris County’s lawsuit against the TCEQ that challenges changes to the commission’s Air Quality Standard Permit for Concrete Batch Plants.

“The Texas Commission on Environmental Quality is not doing enough to protect residents and ensure we have clean air,” Harris County Attorney Christian Menefee said in a statement last October when the lawsuit was filed.

Neighbors are hoping their concerns will be heard by the TCEQ during a public meeting later this month.

“It’s not only going to be the dust and the air quality, but it’s going to be the traffic, the noise, and the pollution, and we just moved out here to get away from all that stuff,” said Simonton resident Barbara Minton. “We’re going to oppose this and fight it all the way.”

According to the TCEQ spokesperson, it may be four to six months before commissioners decide whether to issue the permit.

The TCEQ public meeting is Thursday, Aug. 25 at 6 p.m. at Fulshear High School, 9302 Charger Way.

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