News 12 investigates: A small community’s fight for cleaner air in Gunter

Residents said they are feeling the effects of the air quality firsthand, and finding it harder to breathe.
Published: Dec. 28, 2022 at 6:15 PM CST
Email This Link
Share on Pinterest
Share on LinkedIn

GUNTER, Texas (KXII) - A group in Gunter, Texas, is pushing to change concrete batch plant regulations to consider the proximity to other plants on permit applications.

On Tuesday, air quality scientists reported the polluted air at a cluster of eleven plants may exceed the national standard without breaking any laws.

But residents said they are feeling the effects of the air quality firsthand, and finding it harder to breathe.

“The doctor’s first request was that we move because of the emissions being emitted from the concrete batch plant,” said Karla Dakota, speaking to Gunter City Council in March, which News 12 acquired through a public information request. “I would like to discuss some of the medical and health issues that have been recently diagnosed by my son’s doctor.”

She tells them her son’s chronic cough is now diagnosed as asthma.

“Currently, he has been prescribed an inhaler,” said Dakota.

“I highly doubt that I’m the only person that has a child with any significant or minimal health issues.”

That same meeting, another woman sat in the room who said she was also experiencing similar symptoms.

“I noticed within about three or four weeks of being home, I coughed,” said Linda Hunter.

Hunter and her family have owned her homes property for almost a century- before there were batch plants.

Now, the plants line the view from her yard.

The street in front of her home is the same one used by industrial trucks transporting materials to and from the batch plants.

But it wasn’t until she retired and started spending more time at home that she said she began noticing a significant change in her health.

“By March, I coughed on a daily basis,” said Hunter.

She said her condition slowly declined, especially when she smelled propane.

“I just couldn’t move, lethargic, couldn’t get my breath, headache,” said Hunter. “I literally just stopped moving for a couple of days.”

I asked Dr. Sanober Kable if symptoms like coughs and headaches could be associated with living near the batch plants.

“Yes, very much so,” said Dr. Kable. “So the cough is more like reactive airways, shortness of breath, and coughing is a symptom of new-onset asthma in some cases. Reactive airways is another term for saying lungs are becoming sensitive to what they are inhaling.”

Dr. Kable specializes in respiratory care at the Texoma Medical Center.

“As pulmonologists, we are definitely looking into air quality,” said Dr. Kable.

“Air quality can lead to multiple health problems, including lung health, overall lymphatic systems, cancers, and so I think it is vital for us to worry about what we eat and what we breathe,” said Dr. Kable.

When people begin worrying about how well they are breathing, she said it’s critical to notify their elected officials.

“It should be reported to the safety and local authorities to see what’s being done about this,” said Dr. Kable.

That’s why people like Linda Hunter said this year they began going to the city council meetings.

“We started this back in March trying to get an open dialogue with them and trying to get them to say “hey, this is what we’re going to do,’” said Hunter.

Months later, she said she’s still asking for help but receiving few answers.

“We’ve gotten zero,” said Hunter. “We’ve got nothing.”