The Austin Chronicle

Naked City

Slow progress at Buda quarry

By Daniel Mottola, June 24, 2005, News

Austin-based KBDJ LP's controversial Buda rock-crusher and quarry operation has been making news since May, when "Naked City" reported on claims made by nearby Ruby Ranch subdivision residents that beyond being a noisy neighbor, the quarry is bad for air quality, bad for water quality (it sits atop the Edwards Aquifer), and bad for safety because of the heavy truck traffic it brings to their Hays Co. bedroom community ("Buda Rock Quarry Stirs Up More Than Dust," May 13).

On June 9, the Barton Springs/Edwards Aquifer Conservation District delayed its approval of an application by KBDJ for a water well permit that would allow the company to drill deep into the Trinity Aquifer (below the Edwards) and extract the 25 million gallons per year it needs to reach full production. Apparently, company management failed to officially notify neighbors that the application existed and had already exceeded the 180-day application time limit – sending the permit process back to square one, according to a Statesman report. KBDJ is currently buying water from the LCRA and trucking it into the facility, according to spokeswoman Kirsten Voinis. But Ruby Ranch resident Mary Stone, co-founder of the citizens' group Stop the Crusher, said there's lingering concern about the source of the operation's water. "We don't see water trucks and you'd think we would," Stone said. Stop the Crusher is looking into obtaining LCRA records for KBDJ's water purchases, she said.

Three days before the permit decision, KBDJ announced two voluntary safety initiatives in response to neighbors' concerns: widening the entrance to the quarry to allow its trucks to pull out onto FM 967 more safely, and forbidding loaded trucks to leave the quarry property when nearby school zone lights on FM 967 are flashing. The original narrow quarry driveway forced wide-turning 18-wheelers to cross into oncoming traffic when entering and exiting the facility. Residents were also weary of the trucks (23 tons when loaded) traveling the rural, two-lane roads during morning and afternoon school traffic.

"We appreciate any effort to improve safety. This is a step in the right direction," Stone said. She was uncertain Tuesday whether the initiative also applies to incoming empty truck traffic during school zone hours, which she said is of equal concern. KBDJ's Voinis said the quarry has no control over when empty trucks arrive at the site, but that "no trucks will leave the quarry during school zone hours." Members of Stop the Crusher and NOPE (Neighbors Organized to Protect the Environment) Buda, another opposition group, are monitoring the process of a TCEQ contested case hearing they requested, which entails an ongoing examination of emissions generated by the crushing operation. Residents expect a determination by the end of the year. A bill that would have tightened safety and environmental requirements for rock quarries and crushers, HB 785, failed during the recent legislative session.

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