Naked City

Webberville Smells a Rat

For months, residents of the eastern Travis Co. village of Webberville have opposed expansion of gravel-mining operations in the area. Now the grassroots Village of Webberville Committee is worried about nearby J-V Dirt & Loam's plans to expand its composting operations, located on an 80-acre site just south of the intersection of FM 969 and FM 973, between two sewage plants. Last August, J-V notified the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality of its plans to build a facility that would handle about 45,000 tons of meat, fish, dairy products, oils, and other noxious materials (in addition to lawn clippings) every 30 days.

"Given the close proximity of homes and communities to the proposed site, this operation is a gross assault on residents' health and safety," says VOW member Jackie Dana. Concerned neighbors worry about smells, flies, truck emissions, and other environmental hazards, as well as truck traffic to and from the proposed facility. Traffic generated by area gravel pits already makes the 973-969 intersection dangerous, Dana says.

But J-V President Don Legacy says his company has already been composting for at least seven years and would simply like to expand the types of materials it processes. All of J-V's operations are permitted through the state, from hauling to processing. J-V didn't have to apply for a special permit to begin processing carcasses and other new materials because under state regulations, those materials still fall within basic composting levels. Addressing rumors that J-V plans to create a "landfill" by burying animal carcasses and covering them with dirt, Legacy laughs heartily. "We're not a landfill," he said. "The only thing we can put in a hole is clean fill" such as dirt, rocks, and bricks.

J-V isn't located within Webberville's newly created village limits (the community incorporated just last month) but in Austin's extraterritorial jurisdiction, and according to TCEQ rules, only adjacent landowners need to be notified when a company plans to begin composting activities. Nevertheless, Legacy encourages concerned Webberville residents to contact him with questions. While the notice J-V filed with the state did not require a public hearing before being approved, and the state agency has no mechanism in place requiring such a hearing, VOW wants concerned area residents to ask the TCEQ for one anyway.

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