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DEFENDER | DECEMBER 15 | 2016

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Fifth Ward residents oppose batching plant By JASEMINE KNOWLES Defender News Service

Calling it an intrusion on their “quality of life,” Fifth Ward residents and elected officials raised concerns about a proposed concrete batch plant in their neighborhood during a public hearing with members of the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ). The TCEQ has the power to allow or prevent construction. A concrete batching plant is a facility where the ingredients of concrete are blended. According to the Environmental Protection Agency, poorly controlled plants can discharge highly alkaline wastewater, dust and excess noise, but plants operated in accordance with EPA guidelines “should operate in harmony with the environment and neighboring communities.” This past January, Raul Garza, owner of CemTech, submitted an application to build a batch plant on 3116 Jensen Drive, directly across the street from homes, schools and other area establishments. Residents are concerned about air pollution causing serious health problems, streets being torn up and loud noises from trucks. “It’s just a senseless decision for our community, period,” said resident Jennifer Gooden. “Just a couple of years ago, Jensen drive was so messed up you couldn’t even drive down the roads and it just recently became drivable. “Now they’re looking to bring in this cementing company where trucks are known to pollute the air, leave rocks and spill cement, only to tear up our streets and neighborhood again. It’s senseless and careless,” Gooden said. “Instead we should build more shopping centers or something of substance that will enhance the community.” During the meeting, Houston State Rep. Harold Dutton asked whether TCEQ or Garza would halt the plant after listening to the residents’ concerns. He did not

Fifth Ward residents are against the construction of another concrete batch plant considering they already have three in the neighborhood.

receive a response. “The problem is, too many times, people have come into our community and done deeds that they wouldn’t do in their own communities,” Dutton said. “But for some reason they come to ours, and it’s offensive to us. In the ‘60s we used to say, ‘If you don’t respect us, then expect us.’ If this permit gets granted [Garza] needs to expect us every single day, outside standing and petitioning.” In addition to Dutton’s sentiments, Mayor Sylvester Turner sent a letter to TCEQ in September requesting a denial of the batch plant. TCEQ has yet to respond, and Dutton wants to take legislative action demanding that agencies reflect what Texas residents want, not just businesses. Brian Butler, communication

outreach director at Air Alliance Houston, added that the Fifth Ward area is already heavily impacted by traffic pollution with three other existing batch plants. “I’m in the business of air quality, and particle matter from a cementing company is so fine it can enter your bloodstream and kill you,” Butler said. “But I don’t want to talk technical tonight. I want to talk common sense, and right now people are experiencing adverse effects due to the current concentration of cement batch plants in their community. [Residents] just want to live in peace and have good health.” Community members who want to take a stand against the proposed plant can call the TCEQ environmental complaint hotline at 888-777-3186.

localbriefs THE MAN AT THE CENTER OF A CIVIL RIGHTS LAWSUIT AGAINST the Houston Police Department, has been charged with capital murder. Chad Holley is charged in connection with the death of 42-year-old David Trejo-Gonzalez on Sept. 21 earlier this year. According to HPD, Trejo-Gonzalez was walking from his car to his apartment when he was robbed, then fatally shot. Holley is also facing three other charges from October 2016 - theft, trespassing and burglary of a habitation. In 2011, Holley made news when a video was released showing four former city police officers kicking and stomping him after a robbery. Community leaders expressed outrage. Holley was convicted of burglary in juvenile court and put on probation. In 2015, a judge dismissed Holley’s federal civil rights lawsuit against the city of Houston and several former Houston police officers….CONSTRUCTION WILL SOON BEGIN ON TWO AREA SCHOOLS. The Houston Independent School District approved construction contracts for Askew Elementary School and Madison High School, both part of the district’s voter-approved 2012 Bond Program. The schools will be among almost three dozen projects across the district under construction by the end of the year. Askew is slated to receive $26.6 million for a new school accommodating 850 pre-kindergarten through fifth-grade students. Madison is slated to receive $82.7 million for a new school that will accommodate 1,900 to 2,100 students and incorporate recent science and classroom building renovations.……NON-SMOKING POLICIES ARE COMING TO RESIDENTS OF MORE THAN 48,0000 PUBLIC HOUSING UNITS. Under a new rule issued by the Department of Housing and Urban Development, public housing authorities nationwide must go smoke-free in the next 18 months. The rule excludes residents living in homes under the Housing Choice Voucher program, formerly known as Section 8, a federal rent subsidy program.

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Houston Defender: December 15, 2016  

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