By: Isaiah Robinson
HOUSTON — City and State officials spoke out at a press conference Tuesday against a concrete batch plant some say is causing pollution and major health care concerns for residents in Houston’s historic Acreage Home.
Opposers are protesting a pending permit for Soto Ready Mix, a facility they say has been putting neighbors at risk for the last three years.
Many agree there’s an all-out war on urban life in the state of Texas, and African Americans must fight to protect their communities.
“How we do that, is by what we are doing now; standing together in unison,” said Texas Rep. Jarvis Johnson.
According to health officials, the concrete facility is producing a fine particulate matter that is 30 times smaller than the diameter of a human hair, and nearby residents are six times more likely to get asthma because the plants pollute the air.
The particles are said to produce major health risks, including premature death and aggravated asthma attacks.
“The emissions of a batch plant are well-documented to be the silent killer,” said Sen. John Whitmire (D-Houston).
In 2019 alone, Soto Ready Mix was cited 34 times for violations, according to an official at the press conference.
The concrete company already began operations across the street from the Highland Park Community Center and directly next to the Williams family’s fence.
Donna Williams, wife of David Williams, expressed her discontent.
“My husband and I noticed an increased amount of dust in the house; we’ve had to dust and vacuum frequently. The last time we opened our vacuum bag, my husband noticed a fine dust that resembled a concrete mixture,” she said.
Many question the morality of why anyone would decide to erect a potentially harmful operation in a residential area, threatening the lives of many families, including elderly and children?
“I have breathing problems among other respiratory issues,” said Lilian Simpson, a resident who lives close to the property. “I used to sit outside on the porch and go across the street to talk to the people at the park; but, I haven’t for about a year now because the dust causes me to sneeze constantly without getting a breath in.”
Does the city of Houston care about the well-being of the citizens of Acres Homes?
“I want us to be active and aggressive to work and maintain people’s quality of life in every neighborhood,” said Mayor Sylvester Turner. “Let me be clear, if it was someplace else, I can’t even imagine this facility being set up in other neighborhoods.”
“In America, businesses thrive and grow, we thank them for that,” said U.S. Representative for Texas’s 18th congressional district Sheila Jackson Lee (D-Houston). “But so do we have rights as residents, neighbors, families and seniors to the dignity and quality of our life. We have rights.”
The affected Acres Homes community is not backing down from a fight.
“I’ve retained my lawyers over a year ago and they’ve came to all the meetings,” said Joel Dempsey, Homeowners Association President of White Oak Terrace. “If they want the fight, let’s bring it.”
The Texas Commission on Environmental Quality will hold a hearing on Jan. 23 to decide if the company can receive an air quality permit allowing further construction.
U.S. Rep. of the Texas’s 18th congressional district Sheila Jackson Lee speaking on the rights of the citizens Acres Homes to fight back.
Sen. John Whitmire calling on attendees to “put a face” on these concerns.
Mayor Turner speaking about the concrete batch company not being allowed around these facilities.