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West Dallas residents may soon get relief from polluting concrete batch plants

A concrete batch plant is neighbor to homes in West Dallas' neighborhood of Westmoreland Heights.
Alejandra Martinez
A concrete batch plant is near homes in the Westmoreland Heights neighborhood.

Debbie Orozco Solis says folks in her West Dallas neighborhood have to live with a fine dust that sometimes makes it hard to breathe. They share the neighborhood with a “concrete batch plant” that makes cement for construction projects.

And she’s hopeful that city leaders will take the first step in changing zoning code rules that have allowed several environmentally hazardous concrete batch plants to operate near homes in her majority Latino neighborhood for decades.

“Companies and developers come and just throw anything they want at us,” Solis said. “It’s just the historical environmental racism that we have here. And it’s from generations of discrimination.”

The City of Dallas is now looking at stricter rules that would limit where polluting facilities like a concrete batch plant can operate.

Concrete batch plants are known sources of air pollutants. And for decades, Dallas residents who live close to them have complained about dust and particulate matter they release.

West Dallas resident Debbie Orozco Solis stands in front of Eladio R. Martinez Learning Center, a school located a three-minute drive away from a concrete batch plant.
Alejandra Martinez
West Dallas resident Debbie Orozco Solis stands in front of Eladio R. Martinez Learning Center, a school located a three-minute drive away from a concrete batch plant.

“There are a lot of health problems,” she said. “Pollution that brings a lot of asthma.”

Solis said she knows of many people in her neighborhood with asthma. She says people of color have suffered the most.

Historically people of color have been forced to share their neighborhoods with industrial operations. Environmental activists said that discriminatory zoning turned Southern Dallas into a dumping ground for environmental pollution.

For years, Solis and her neighbors also pleaded for the city to remove batch plants from residential neighborhoods.

The city has reported that there are 38 batch plants with active permits in Dallas. Solis said 20 of those are in District 6, which includes her neighborhood in West Dallas.

Solis and her neighbors might get a break soon. The Planning and Urban Design Department (PUD) initiated a zoning code change for batch plants earlier this year.

"I think what the most impactful thing is going to be is that there's going to be a voice through that process for these neighborhoods,” said Julia Ryan, director of PUD.

PUD is moving forward on a proposed zoning code change in two phases.

The first phase would require temporary or permanent batch plants wanting to open in Dallas to go through a public hearing process before they could get a Specific Use Permit (SUP). Residents would get a chance to speak at a city plan commission meeting and council meetings if they have concerns. And permits would be approved by city leaders once the public hearing is over.

This kind of process is new for Dallas. The reason batch plants like Solis exist is because permits have been approved by the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality, the state’s environmental agency. But local zoning or land use requirements might let cities be in charge.

The second phase, which is still in the works, would identify “buffers” between batch plants and so-called “sensitive land use” areas such as schools and homes. Ryan said the goal is to ensure “new industries are an appropriate distance away from neighborhoods.”

Ryan said she hopes new regulations will “gradually phase out” existing batch plants through zoning by forcing them to come into compliance over time.

The first phase was approved by the City Plan Commission and will be heard by the City Council on May 11.

Got a tip? Alejandra Martinez is a Report For America corps member for KERA News. Email Alejandra at You can follow Alejandra on Twitter @alereports.

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Alejandra Martinez is a reporter for KERA and The Texas Newsroom through Report for America (RFA). She's covering the impact of COVID-19 on underserved communities and the city of Dallas.