The public portion of the contested case hearing on the proposed Comal Vulcan Materials quarry concluded Tuesday, a day ahead of schedule.
Closing arguments will be written, and opponents will have a chance to submit a written response to the other side’s arguments within the next few weeks, which will formally conclude the hearing.
State Office of Administrative Hearings administrative office law judge Rebecca Smith will have until Sept. 3 to render a decision on what actions the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality should take on the air permit application to build a 1,500-acre limestone-mining quarry and rock crushing plant at Highway 46 and FM 3009.
“Today we heard from a number of TCEQ employees that were called to the witness stand,” said David Drewa, a representative for the anti-quarry group Friends of Dry Comal Creek and Stop Vulcan 3009.
Drewa said these TCEQ employees contradicted themselves several times.
“The TCEQ toxicologist admitted that health hazards like silicosis and lung cancer are directly related to the amount of crystalline silica that is processed by a quarry,” Drewa said. “But we know that the TCEQ did not take into account any air pollution from the quarry activities themselves — the mining, or the blasting or the product transfer — the permit only covers the pollution from the actual rock crusher machinery.”
Joel Stanford, air permit specialist for TCEQ assigned to the permit application, also referred to the rock crusher as a minor source of emissions, Drewa said.
“Even though the permit allows over 95,000 pounds of contaminants to be emitted per year,” Drewa said.
Many anti-quarry advocates came out for both days of the hearing, Drewa said. About 70 attendees were present the first day and about 50 the second day.
“The core samples were covered yesterday afternoon,” Drewa said of the scientific evidence admitted last minute to the hearing.
Vulcan refused to provide full core sample data during discovery and presented a cherry-picked single self-selected sample that only showed 0.2% crystalline silica, Drewa said.
“Vulcan witness Dr. Lori Eversull stated that Vulcan drilled core samples at 41 different locations on the property and tested material from all 41 of these locations to determine the economic viability of the quarry,” Drewa said. “But when it came to air pollution modeling, they decided a single sample from three boring locations would be enough.”
Residents living adjacent to the proposed site ordered a rock core sample to be taken on their property just about 50 feet from one of Vulcan’s core sample drilling sites, said Jeff Ray, a member of the Harrison Ranch Group, another anti-quarry group.
The sample was tested by certified lab Wiss, Janney, Elstner Associates and the results became available last Wednesday, Drewa said.
At the start of the hearing on Monday, Smith granted a motion to admit this core sample data.
“Among other things, our data shows crystalline silica content five times as high as the single data sample provided by Vulcan,” Drewa said.
During proceedings, Derek Seal of the Winstead Law Firm, representing Vulcan, said Vulcan has gone above and beyond TCEQ requirements and looks forward to working with Comal County.
“Vulcan appreciates your consideration of this permit application,” Seal said Monday morning.
Vulcan spokesman Scott Burnham said Vulcan has no comments other than those stated in the hearing at this time.