Worries grow after quarry cited for discharge violations

Violations stemming from two separate discharges of sedimentary debris into Onion Creek in 2016 and 2017 led to citations for the Hays Quarry Rock Crushing Plant, according to a Barton Publications investigation.

The investigation came after video and photo evidence of the discharge was submitted to the Hays Free Press and News-Dispatch, sparking outcry from local residents.

The quarry, located south of RM 967 and west of the Ruby Ranch subdivision, was found to be in violation of sediment discharge in 2016 and 2017.

Two additional investigations were conducted in 2018 with no violations discovered. 

According to an August 2016 and September 2017 investigation by the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ), the quarry failed to inspect and maintain a stormwater structure control, in accordance to the entities’ regulations.

“TCEQ recommends updating the berm/silt fence connection in order to prevent potential future sediment-laden stormwater discharges,” the report read. 

According to Stormwater One, an online database for training personnel on water policy, this type of discharge occurs during construction projects, as soil disturbance and vegetation removal can drastically increase wind and water erosion. 

During rain events, water will flow through these unprotected eroded soil surfaces, which can cause sedimentary discharge to flow into waterways, according to the database. This debris includes pesticides, chemicals, asphalt and petroleum.

“The discharge has been in the same location three years in a row and on several days in 2016, and again on Sept. 4th and 9th of this year,” said Kathleen Holder, a resident near the quarry. “I will continue to be vigilant and I will document any further violations, but there doesn’t seem to be much in terms of a reprimand for this reoccurring.” 

A TCEQ spokesperson said citations were issued against Hays Quarry in 2016 and 2017 as a result of the investigations. No monetary penalties were levied against the company.

According to a TCEQ statement, in 2018, stormwater pollution prevention plan inspection records were reviewed, and the records documented berms and stockpiled materials were being monitored after each rainfall event. No violations were found after both 2018 investigations.

For local residents, TCEQ’s reprimands are not enough to potentially stop the discharge in the future. 

Mary Stone, Barton Springs Edwards Aquifer Conservation District (BSEACD) board member, said she first got involved with the water district while fighting the quarry’s construction in the early 2000s. Stone worried about how the quarry could impact water quality. 

“TCEQ doesn’t come out and regularly monitor these quarries. They wait for a complaint,” Stone said. “If an investigation occurs, and another incident happens, they wait for another complaint. There is a pattern of concern I have from this entity.” 

Stone said she wants to help TCEQ be successful in its policies, but waiting for a complaint to launch an investigation isn’t enough. 

Holder said she was skeptical of the 2018 ruling that no violations were present at the quarry, citing that the agency’s investigators did not visit the site until nearly 20 days after the initial complaint. 

According to a BSEACD statement, the district is concerned about any untreated storm flowing into creeks upstream of an Edwards Aquifer recharge feature. In addition, the district also relies on TCEQ officials to enforce its rules to “protect recharge water quality.”

“The District will continue to assist residents … in reporting violations of water-quality regulations to TCEQ and may become involved if the violations persist,” according to the statement.

The Hays Free Press and News-Dispatch reached out to Hays Quarry officials for comment on this story. Hays Quarry management did not respond prior to press time.

Comment on this Article

About Author

Comments are closed.