Neighbors fight against rock crushing co.

May 14, 2008 4:00:11 AM PDT
There's a heated debate in one southeast Houston neighborhood. Some people claim the Southern Crushed Concrete Company on Bellfort near Sunnyside is dangerous and could make them sick.A portable concrete crushing machine usually operates for about four months and makes a huge pile. Then the company moves it to another location. That's the kind of operation Southern Crushed Concrete wants to move to their Bellfort location, but for nearly 10 years, neighbors have been fighting to keep that from happening.

"This is one of these times when if you have the right to do something, it's still not the right thing to do," said US Rep. Al Green.

Southern Crushed Concrete has the right to move ahead with plans to bring a concrete recycling system to its plant near the Sunnyside neighborhood in southeast Houston. Just last week, the Texas Commission on Environmental Air Quality approved the air permit in a 2-1 vote. However, the long fight on the part of neighbors to keep the concrete crusher out of the area is long from over.

"They can do their business, but don't have it affect our health or our economy out here," said Sunnyside resident Bessie Swindle. "We're just getting to where businesses are coming out here."

The list of elected officials who've lined up in opposition to the company's plan is long. It includes everyone from the mayor of Houston to Congressman Al Green.

Green said, "We will not allow this to come into this community. We will fight until we can find a way to prevent this from happening."

Still, according to the city's website, it's happening all over town. Southern Crushed Concrete has 11 plants in greater Houston, and a 12th in Galveston. Right now five locations are operating the crushing machines that, according to the company, create no carbon emissions.

Still, neighbors worry about potential health effects from dust leaving the plant. It's an issue the company says it has studied extensively. The matter may soon get more review. The Congressman plans to call on the Environmental Protection Agency for help.

"It really is a nuisance for this community," Green said. "It really is not something that should be done."

Southern Crushed Concrete actually considers itself a 'green' company, because it's the largest recycler of construction materials in the Houston area, and diverts about three million tons of material from local landfills every year.

The next step is that the company will have to get a permit from the city, and that may not be easy. Last year, city council passed new restrictions on these types of companies.

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