‘Lousy neighbors’: Joppa residents fight a batch plant permit — again
Less than two months after Joppa residents saw the closure of a decades-old asphalt batch plant — after years of organizing to get it shut down — community members face a new battle.
Joppa residents, environmental activists and city and federal officials packed into a hotel ballroom for the meeting, held by the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality about the pending permit application for the Texas Star Ready Mix concrete batch plant.
The scene at Thursday’s public hearing was nearly identical to the last major battle against heavy industry in the historic Freedman’s community.
Community members and environmental advocates lined up to ask questions and have their comments read into the official record for TCEQ review before making a permitting decision.
“You’re just a part of disenfranchising this already historic community,” Joppa resident and activist Alicia Kendrick said. “The city and the community of Joppa are tired of the bare minimum from our neighbors. We are a peninsula of industry — you can’t even see us from the highway.”
The batch plant is one of several heavy industrial sites that encases the historic Freedman’s community — along with a shingle factory and a railyard.
The Texas Star Ready Mix concrete batch plant has been at its current location — right outside of Joppa — since as far back as the 1950s. The facility was found to be operating illegally without the proper permits in September 2022, according to city officials.
It took nearly a year for City of Dallas inspectors to make it back out to investigate the plant. Dallas officials say the facility was still operating without a proper permit. That forced the company to apply for the proper permit with the TCEQ.
Community members say information regarding the plant's violations and permit process has been limited. The city's environmental commission discussed the batch plant at a public meeting in early April — two days before the TCEQ's comment deadline.
Ultimately, the public hearing was called by State Representative Toni Rose.
But the meeting was not held in Joppa, or near the community. Instead, those in attendance had to make their way to the Crowne Plaza Hotel in downtown Dallas. Some residents organized a van to take elders and others to the meeting — to make sure their opposition to yet another polluter in Joppa was known.
“I know we had to come downtown,” Rose said. “I will take the hit on that.”
The nearly three-hour long meeting was contentious. Residents and stakeholders did not seem satisfied with the answers supplied by both the company’s representatives and TCEQ staffers — and emotions boiled over.
“You guys are lousy neighbors,” environmental activist Allen McGill said during the meeting. “You should be ashamed of yourselves to forcing these folks to come down here.”
Those in attendance voiced concerns over the negative health effects of heavy industry – especially those situated around communities of color.
“It is well known and documented that particulate matter, PM2.5 emissions from concrete batch plants pose health risks,” District 12 Environmental Commissioner Dr. Barry Lachman said. “Specifically increased birth defects, heavy metal emissions, increased lung cancer risks and negative effects on asthma and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease.”
TCEQ staff pointed to the fact that the plant had been in operation for decades. Joppa residents say they are fed up with the constant permitting of heavy industry near their homes.
The public hearing marked the last day for comment on the permit issue. Now, the TCEQ executive director will decide whether to grant the Texas Star Ready Mix batch plant a permit — or allow for a contested case hearing.
Long-time environmental activist and director of Downwinders at Risk Jim Schermbeck says he’s not very hopeful.
“We’re opposing the permit for the Texas Star Ready Mix concrete batch plant and requesting a contested case hearing,” Schermbeck said. “None of which will do any good because this meeting is just theater…Permitting is what TCEQ does.”
Both District 7 Council Member Adam Bazaldua and Mayor Pro Tem Tennell Atkins — who represent the areas near Joppa and the batch plant — were both absent from the meeting. A city staffer read a statement from the council members into the record. They also sent in written statements to be considered by the TCEQ’s executives.
Joppa residents and environmental stakeholders will wait to hear whether the batch plant will remain near the community — or if there will be more discussion over the permit.
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