A concrete batch plant at 4500 Great Trinity Forest Way has been operating near Joppa dating back to 2015. Photo courtesy of Legal Aid of Texas.
Aug. 4, 2023
A minority-owned neighborhood in southern Dallas took a moment to celebrate after an asphalt batch plant closed down in June.
But following the victory, now residents of Joppa — pronounced Joppy by locals — are facing down another polluting foe.
This time, it’s a concrete batch plant, which has been operating at 4500 Great Trinity Forest Way dating back to 2015. Ownership changed in 2021 when Midlothian-based Texas Star Ready Mix took over the facility.
Texas Star Ready Mix took over ownership of the concrete batch plant at 4500 Great Trinity Forest Way in 2021. Photo by Kathryn Bazan.
The batch plant is part of a cluster of industrial facilities that surround the historic community, founded in 1872 by freed slaves.
Over the decades, racial zoning practices in Dallas pushed industrial businesses south, near Joppa. Today, the community's population of less 1,000 is still primarily people of color with low incomes. Joppa counts as its neighbors: a roofing shingle manufacturer; two concrete batch plants; and the Union Pacific Railroad, where seven rail cars derailed off its tracks last summer.
In addition, the heavy traffic of Interstate-45 and Texas State Highway 310 border the community on the west side.
“Per capita, no other Dallas neighborhood suffers from a higher pollution burden,” according to the Joppa Environmental Equity Project, funded by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.
All of these pollution sources contribute to the degradation of air quality, human health and safety in the Joppa community, says Michael Bates, an attorney from Legal Aid of Northwest Texas.
“The Joppa area has been inundated with polluting industries in this area for a long time,” said Bates.
The nonprofit legal service has been retained by the Joppa Freedman’s Township Association to fight Texas Star Ready Mix’s permit.
Temekia Derrough has become an environmental watchdog for the Joppa community. Photo courtesy of Temekia Derrough.
Temekia Derrough, president of the Joppa Freedman’s Township Association, has been a resident of Joppa since 2006. She founded the nonprofit group in 2017, in part to pushback on industrial polluters that threaten their quality of life.
“We’re already living in a food desert,” said Derrough, a member of the Dallas Environmental Commission for District 7. “We have to speak up for our long-term health. Residents have suffered from cancer, diabetes and mental health issues.”
The community has been undergoing a transformation over the decades, she said.
Dallas Area Habitat for Humanity has built more than 150 homes and repaired nearly 100 homes in the Joppa community since 1986.
Derrough, who’s also a member the Dallas Sierra Club’s Conservation Eco Action Committee, has served as an environmental watchdog over the years, keeping informed on local polluters.
In October, the city of Dallas found the Texas Star Ready Mix was illegally operating without the required air permit, according to Kathryn Bazan, chair of the Dallas Environmental Commission, in an Dallas Morning News op-ed.
The violation prompted the operator to apply for a permit. State Rep Toni Rose, D-Dallas then requested a public hearing on the community’s behalf.
Map of Joppa shows industrial operations bordering the community to the north, east and south. Courtesy of Google Earth.
Now Joppa residents are gearing up to challenge the plant's licensing at a public hearing set for Aug. 17 at the Crowne Plaza Hotel at 1015 Elm Street in downtown Dallas.
The location, chosen by the applicant, is a logisical challenge — a 40-minute round trip or two-hours on public transportation for residents. Parking is $20.
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency requested the venue be moved to a more convenient location for residents but the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality denied the request.
Derrough said they are looking into arranging for a bus to take residents to the hearing.
“We’re trying to get as many people as we can to the hearing,”
Meanwhile, Bates of Legal Aid of Northwest Texas says they are providing to the state a litany of complaints on behalf of their client.
The attorney asserts that the batch plant owner failed to fully comply with public notification laws and has glaring gaps on their application.
There is also clarification needed regarding Texas Star Ready Mix's planned production schedule, which is described on the company's permit application as an 8-hour work day, 6 days per week, 52 weeks a year. While elsewhere its paperwork references a 24-hour work day, 7 days a week, throughout the year, according to Bates.
The health risks posed by a concrete batch operating around the clock and around the corner is Joppa residents' biggest concern.
Batch plants are notoriously noisy, dirty and a source of particulate matter pollution.
The microscopic solids or liquid droplets can be inhaled and penetrate the lungs and even enter the bloodstream, causing serious and long-lasting health problems, according to the EPA.
Bazan added that the city’s investigation report alleges the company failed to follow state rules.
“The facility moved materials on-site using an illegal open conveyor system and failed to maintain the required 300-foot buffer — both amplifying pollution experienced by nearby residents,” said Bazan.
Despite these objections, TCEQ has already granted Texas Star Ready Mix's permit preliminary approval, she said.
Bazan has a unique dual perspective on the matter. She once worked for TCEQ, guiding entities through regulatory compliance requirements. Later she became an environmental equity advocate, rising to her position leading Dallas' first Environmental Commission.
Given her experience, she can't deny the long odds for Joppa residents.
"The state seldom denies a concrete batch plant permit," she admitted.
Public Hearing on Batch Plant Permit
About: TCEQ's Office of the Chief Clerk will facilitate a public meeting on Texas Star Ready Mix, LLC's proposed Air Quality Standard Permit, Registration No. 171636, to authorize a concrete batch plant at 4500 Great Trinity Forest Way, Dallas.
When: Aug. 17, 7 p.m.
Where: Crowne Plaza Dallas Downtown, an IHG Hotel, Hotel Room – Dallas C, 1015 Elm Street, Dallas
If You Can't Attend: Written comments can be submitted anytime during the public meeting or by mail before the close of the public comment period to the Office of the Chief Clerk, TCEQ, Mail Code MC-105, P.O. Box 13087, Austin, Texas 78711-3087 or electronically.
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