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GAF shingle factory agrees to leave, in an environmental justice victory for West Dallas residents

GAF shingle factory in West Dallas
Azul Sordo
/
KERA News
Residents of the neighborhood where the GAF plant operates have raised concerns about air pollution and noise.

West Dallas residents won a victory in their battle against industrial pollution this week. The GAF asphalt shingle factory has told residents it is leaving their neighborhood after more than 75 years of operation.

“GAF has come forward willingly to work with us on plans that ultimately leads to GAF leaving West Dallas,” Council Member Omar Narvaez said at a press conference Thursday.

The company's exit comes after the neighborhood group Singleton United/Unidos produced a 100-page report detailing how the company has polluted their air for decades and is a health threat.

A GAF spokesperson told KERA in an email: “GAF met with City leaders and West Dallas community group representatives to share a responsible and considered plan to pursue a legally-binding winding down of operations in West Dallas over the next 7 years.”

Narvaez said GAF leaders told him that they have “heard the community loud and clear.” The council member said he thinks GAF has recognized the West Dallas has changed to a more residential community and that industrial use no longer fits.

There are no clear details or timeline yet.

“The details of the timeline are something that we are actively working on to ensure we do right by the community, our employees, and the thousands of homeowners in Texas and the region who rely on our products every year,” said a GAF spokesperson.

The company has told the city it is looking for another site to open operations, but the city has not received any details from GAF regarding a future location.

Single United/Unidos raised concerns that "there is no specific timeline for the pollution to completely stop" and pushed for more information in a statement posted on social media Friday.

Residents told Narvaez that if this exit doesn’t go smoothly, they will still fight to close the GAF plant through a complicated legal process called amortization.

Through the process, residents would need to prove to the city that GAF is a health threat and is not following zoning laws. Then the City Council can request that the Board of Adjustment consider removing the business. The board is made up of Dallas residents that have been appointed by the council.

If the council doesn’t put in that request, a Dallas resident or property owner can submit a request for an amortization hearing. But they would have to pay a fee of $1,000.

“What GAF agreed to is what I would call self-amortization where GAF has agreed to work with the community,” Narvaez said. He said the city, GAF and the community will work collaboratively on the exit process.

The neighborhood group said that while the proposed departure "has a more favorable timeline for the health and safety of our neighborhood than that of amortization, we need more information."

"Our preliminary math shows it should have already been gone years ago," the statement said.

The statement did not appear to rule out the possibility that amortization might still be considered.

Whether this is via amortization or a negotiated deal depends on GAF," according to the statement.

No environmental testing checking for contamination has been done at the GAF plant’s grounds.

"I would easily say that after them being there and production for 80 years, that there is probably some type of cleanup that has to be done.," Narvaez said.

"We're not leaving anything unturned. Once GAF does exit, it will get remediated, and we will make sure that it's ready for good use."

Neighbors have long complained about potential health risks.

"We value our health and well-being," the group said in its statement. "It’s priceless."

Got a tip? Email Alejandra Martinez at amartinez@kera.org. 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.