Montgomery County commissioners will vote Tuesday whether to sue a new sand mine on the west side of the San Jacinto West Fork. The mine is in a Conroe development called Carriage Hills.
Agenda Item and Text of Motion by County Attorney
This link contains the full text of the motion that commissioners will vote on. Because this item is on the consent agenda, we won’t hear debate on it.
Page 1 of the document above says that, “… it appears that MBM Sand Company, LLC and Carl Hudspeth, individually and doing business as Skilled International, LLC have violated, is violating, or is threatening to violate Subchapter I of Chapter 16 of the Tex. Water Code, or one or more rules adopted by Montgomery County under said subchapter and has failed and refused to cease and desist as demanded by the Montgomery County Engineer and/or the Montgomery County Attorney.”
The county seeks both injunctive relief to remove illegal improvements and restore preexisting conditions. The county also seeks monetary fines totaling $100 for each act of violation and each day of violation.
Potential Permit Issues
The mine operator, named Skilled International, LLC., has aggregate and air quality permits from the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ). The property owner, MBM Sand Company, LLC, has a non-transferrable development permit issued in 2018 to excavate sand pit(s). Skilled International was founded in February 2019 as Cen-Tex Sand, but changed its name to Skilled International two weeks later. The transfer could be one potential issue.
It’s not immediately clear whether the MBM excavation permit allows Skilled to excavate.
No Specific Alleged Violations Listed
However, the motion does not spell out exactly what the violations are.
Subchapter I of Chapter 16 of the Texas Water Code deals with the regulations protecting public health and safety that the County must develop and enforce to participate in the National Flood Insurance Program. They include Montgomery County Flood Plain Management Regulations intended to discourage or otherwise restrict land development or occupancy in flood-prone areas.
The complaint, however, does not enumerate specific alleged violations.
Depending on alleged violations, the outcome of this could set a precedent for other sand mines operating on the West Fork.
Homeowners Have Additional Complaints
The mine also faces problems from local homeowners.
The mine is operating adjacent to a once-quiet neighborhood called Carriage Hills in Conroe. It is sending heavy trucks weighed down with sand up and down Carriage Hills Boulevard. Residents say the noise exceeds 85 decibels, the trucks have torn up roads, and they fear for their children’s safety.
OSHA says prolonged exposure to sounds exceeding 85 decibels could cause hearing loss without protection. Such exposures could result in huge fines.
The trucks, as many as 12 at a time, begin idling outside the plant gate at 6:30 a.m. and run up and down Carriage Hills Boulevard hundreds of times a day – by one count 600 times.
Residents are also exploring the Texas Nuisance Law. In 2016, the Supreme Court of Texas defined this more clearly in the case of Crosstex North Texas Pipeline L.P. v. Gardiner. A nuisance is defined as “condition that substantially interferes with the use and enjoyment of land by causing unreasonable discomfort or annoyance to persons of ordinary sensibilities attempting to use and enjoy it.”
They believe 600 dump trucks a day at intervals of 2 minutes or less, starting at 6:30 a.m. “substantially interferes” with their ability to enjoy their land and that it causes “unreasonable discomfort or annoyance.”
The operation will not end anytime soon without a restraining order. The company is just now removing the overburden, trying to get to frack sand.
Only Restraining Order Will Stop Operation Now
Homeowners believe the operation will likely devalue their properties.
They also worry about the safety risk to children given the high volume of industrial vehicles with tons of payload traveling at speeds that make them unable to stop to stop quickly on residential streets.
Residents Ask You to Sign Petition
To sign a petition supporting the residents of Carriage Hills, visit this link at Change.org.
Some of the residents plan to present the petition to commissioners tomorrow.
Posted by Bob Rehak on 3/23/2020
938 Days after Hurricane Harvey
The thoughts expressed in this post represent opinions on matters of public concern and safety. They are protected by the First Amendment of the US Constitution and the Anti-SLAPP Statute of the Great State of Texas.