The Austin Chronicle

Rock Crusher Stonewalled

By Daniel Mottola, September 23, 2005, News

Buda-area residents may have succeeded in their ongoing efforts to stonewall the operations of Austin-based KBDJ LP's rock crusher and quarry facility, which set up shop last fall in the Austin bedroom community. Based on a lawsuit filed against the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality by local opposition group NOPE (Neighbors Organized to Protect the Environment) claiming the agency approved KBDJ's waste-water abatement plan application erroneously, a Travis Co. judge on Thursday reversed the approval and sent the case back to the TCEQ. The Barton Springs Edwards Aquifer Conservation District filed a brief with the court in support of the suit.

Nearby residents hope the ruling will halt work at the Buda facility indefinitely. NOPE's Dick Schneider said the plan was approved contrary to the TCEQ's own rules designed to protect the Edwards Aquifer recharge zone, where the crusher is located, and that the approval wasn't based on technical data. "Our intent is to have them not operating," Schneider said. "Over the recharge zone is not the place for them to be. It affects half the water in Austin."

KBDJ spokeswoman Kirsten Voinis said, "The ruling was based on TCEQ documentation and had nothing to do with any action by KBDJ," and "we'll continue to go above and beyond what's necessary to protect the aquifer." As of Tuesday, Voinis said KBDJ was still operating and said the company was waiting for the TCEQ to sort out what the ruling really means. "We'll do whatever is required by law," she said.

The TCEQ's Andrea Morrow said on Tuesday, "We are exploring legal options at the attorney general's office, awaiting response from a legal team," and trying to determine whether KBDJ will be allowed to operate. Tom Kelley, a spokesman for the attorney general's office, said the ruling states that TCEQ's wastewater plan approval was "not supported by substantial evidence" and specifically cited the percentage of suspended solids in the waste water retained vs. those introduced into the aquifer.

Aside from aquifer concerns, Buda neighbors have also raised safety issues about the 18-wheelers the facility brings to their rural, two-lane roads, and the dust and noise created by KBDJ's operations. NOPE is also engaged in legal challenges to KBDJ's air-quality permit with the TCEQ and its well-water applications with the BSEACD.

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