A Williamson County commissioner said she is researching whether the Florence area needs a groundwater conservation district to restrict the amount of water a proposed asphalt quarry could use since there doesn’t seem to be a way to stop the project from being built.
“I don’t know how we can stop this plant from coming,” Commissioner Valerie Covey told residents after a heated meeting Monday night between the residents and Texas Commission on Environmental Quality representatives about a pending air permit for a quarry.
The quarry is opposed by many residents who say its water usage would cause wells for the city of Florence and local landowners to run dry.
Covey, whose district includes Florence, said she will discuss the idea of a groundwater conservation district for the area with state Rep. Terry Wilson, R-Georgetown. Groundwater conservation districts can restrict the amount of water that could be pumped by landowners.
A groundwater conservation district could restrict the amount of water pumped from the quarry even if it was created after the quarry opened said J.D Head, a lawyer hired by a group of residents opposed to the quarry and asphalt plant called “No Florence Asphalt.”
A company called Asphalt Inc. wants to open the business at 10957 FM 487, about one mile east of Florence. The TCEQ in August approved a permit for an asphalt plant at the business, which unlike the air permit the quarry is seeking did not require public notice.
Texas has 98 groundwater conservation districts whose management plans have been confirmed by the Texas Water Development Board, including several in Travis, Hays and Bastrop counties. The districts can be requested in different ways, including a petition by a majority of landowners, according to the Texas Water Code. The petition must be approved by the TCEQ.
About 150 people attended the meeting hosted by the TCEQ at the Sheraton Hotel in Georgetown. Many of them were angry that the state agency does not require businesses seeking to open quarries to conduct water studies.
“What position are you going to take if we run out of water in Florence; it’s a pretty simple question,” Florence resident Chester Green asked at the meeting.
Brad Patterson, a TCEQ manager, responded by saying the meeting was about an air permit for a rock crusher and not about water.
A water study done by a hydrologist hired by “No Florence Asphalt” shows the quarry will withdraw so much water from the aquifer within one year that there won’t be any left to pump, said J.D. Head at the meeting.
Troy Carter, the operations manager of Lone Star Aggregate, whose parent company is Asphalt Inc., disagreed with Head. “I haven’t looked at this but I don’t think that will be the case,” he said.
Company officials have said it would limit its water usage at the quarry by recycling 92 percent of the water it uses.
The TCEQ is accepting comments from the public on its website about the air permit until Dec. 21 and then has 30 days to decide whether to approve it.