Concerns grow over asphalt plant

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Rushing Paving has applied for a standard permit from the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality to build a hot-mix asphalt batch plant. That has sparked quite a debate amongst would be neighbors outside of Pottsboro.

David Moore is recovering from lung cancer and has lived in Pottsboro since 1999. He says he lives there, because of the clean air, but he is afraid that reason might not be valid for much longer.

"My lungs have been compromised by the threat and I really have to be careful, I can't be around smoke and that the last thing I need to be doing is breathing in the emission of an asphalt batch plant," says Moore.

Rushing Paving has proposed to build a rotary kiln asphalt batch plant on Farm Market 120. News that surprised Moore and others in and around North Grayson County.

"Everybody around here finds out after they've broken ground, it was quite a shock," says Moore.

"Disappointment, shock, disappointment that something like this would come to our town," says Frank Budra, Mayor of Pottsboro.

While the health affects of an asphalt plant aren't totally substantiated, reactions like those of Pottsboro's mayor haven't surprised Grayson County leaders.

"The old term of nimbi not in my backyard is becoming something that the people of Grayson County are paying attention to," says Drue Bynum, Grayson County Judge.

On January 29 of this year, Rushing Paving applied for a standard permit from the TCEQ, which does not allow for a public comment period. TCEQ officials have 45 days from the application date to decide whether to approve Rushing's request.

The application approval is based on various factors, including a company's past relationship with the TCEQ.

"Compliance history does play into a company's ability to get a new permit it also plays into the permitting parameters that a company may have," says Tony Walker, TCEQ DFW Regional Director.

A history which walker says has not been normal for a plant like the existing Rushing facility in Sherman.

"Normally a facility should be able to remain in compliance, again…with the Sherman facility, there was an issue," says Walker.

We went to the TCEQ Regional office in Fort Worth to look into these violations. Rushing Paving is currently operating under an expired air quality permit. That's due to a pending investigation stemming from complaints issued after Rushing Paving applied for renewal in 2004. But, since they submitted their renewal application on time, Rushing Paving is able to operate with an expired permit.

"This process that they've been going through since then has been based on our review of that permitting process to see if that renewal is going to be justified," says Walker.

Back on November 5, 2004, TCEQ investigators found that Rushing Paving failed to comply with record-keeping requirements. In addition, the Teresa Rd. plant's dryer bag house was not in working order and was emitting total suspended particulate emissions from the bag house at 206 lbs/hr. That's above the maximum allowed limit of 8.6 pounds per hour.

TCEQ officials say rushing paving was given time to come into compliance.

"In this particular incident, they were not able to come into compliance initially and therefore we had to move forward with out enforcement process," says Walker.

Over the past several weeks, we attempted to contact the owners of Rushing Paving several times, and every time we asked for their side of the story, they refused.

On Monday, the Pottsboro City Council passed a resolution asking Rushing Paving to consider a different location. But Judge Drue Bynum says that's about all city leaders can do.

"My personal opinion…gosh I really wish it would be built somewhere else, but the choice that I've had to make right now that unless we change the law, the law is what we have to obey," says Bynum.

Because of Texas law, Grayson county does not have the authority to zone property. In this case, neither do the cities because the proposed plant falls outside the city limits of Denison and Pottsboro.

"I'm making the stand, I would like to start a movement that would give counties our size certain types of authority to do that," says Bynum.

For now, some residents of Pottsboro are trying to garner support from state representatives. And they say, they'll continue the fight, even if there's little that can be done to stop Rushing Paving.

"I truly do feel that this could be something that's going to make this a quaint little town by the asphalt plant," says Scott Bates.

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