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Snow cones, flyers and asphalt: Joppa organizes ahead of plant public hearing

Community outreach event held outside of New Zion Missionary Baptist Church on May 20. Infomation was given about Austin Asphalt a concrete plant that poses health risks such as asthma to the residents.
Johnathan Johnson
Community outreach event held outside of New Zion Missionary Baptist Church on Sunday. Organizers shared infomation was given about an asphalt plant in the Joppa community.

Community members passed out snow cones and ‘Kool-Aid pickles’ to people passing by New Zion Baptist Church in Joppa.

Every concession came with flyers focused on the harms of living next to heavy industry, particulate matter pollution — and the upcoming public hearing over a controversial asphalt plant.

The facility has been the source of back-and-forth controversy between community members and Dallas city officials. In early April the facility was found to be out of compliance by city staff and will now be the subject of a public hearing in early June.

Alicia Kendrick is the head of the Joppa Environmental Health Project, a group focused on educating community members about the numerous industrial sites that surround the historic southern Dallas Freedman’s Town.

She says the group wants to get as many Joppa residents as possible to speak out against the plant at the upcoming public hearing — and hopefully change city officials' perspective about Joppa.

“The plan is to deindustrialized Joppa as a whole,” Kendrick said.

She says that the plant’s permit renewal “is a perfect time to start enacting that.”

KERA recently reported that while Joppa residents complained for years about the city's response to their concerns, the city spent millionsbuying asphalt from the company that owns it.

Community members worked the concession stand and gave impromptu talks about what they feel are the dangers of living next to the asphalt plant. They handed out news articles about the facility and flyers with links to more information.

The plant, which some community members say is polluting their air, has been in operation since 2009. It’s owned and operated by Austin Bridge and Road — a subsidiary of Austin Industries. In 2013 the facility was approved for an automatic renewal permit by the City of Dallas.

If the permit is renewed again, the facility could stay in Joppa for another decade.

Local activists and community members have tried in the past to stop both state and local permitting of the plant before — with little effect.

Emmanuel Davis has been living in Joppa for around five years. He says the potential health effects and apparent lack of concern for the community’s health is why he got involved in organizing.

“If you’re not healthy, you’re no good to no one,” Davis said. “You’re a ticking time-bomb.”

The public hearing over the plant’s permit with the City of Dallas is scheduled for the June 15 City Plan Commission meeting.

Kendrick’s group plans on organizing transportation to those community members who need it to get to the hearing. That's in the hopes of providing the best possible outcome for Joppa.

The plant’s permit renewal will be decided on by the City Plan Commission or referred to City Council. Austin Bridge and Road has another opportunity to postpone a hearing if it goes to the council.

Kendrick and other community organizers will be out in Joppa every Saturday raising awareness about the plant leading up to the public hearing.

Got a tip? Email Nathan Collins at You can follow Nathan on Twitter @nathannotforyou.

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Nathan Collins is the Dallas Accountability Reporter for KERA. Collins joined the station after receiving his master’s degree in Investigative Journalism from Arizona State University. Prior to becoming a journalist, he was a professional musician.