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Sand depot center of contention

Denise Morris | San Angelo Standard-Times

SAN ANGELO, Texas — Oil field-related industry is getting too close to home for some San Angelo residents.

There are plans for a sand depot in the center of town, an industrial-zoned 5.5 acres along the railroad just east of South Bryant Boulevard and apparently not far enough from Santa Rita.

County Commissioner Bill Ford voiced concern about the planned operation, which involves fracturing sand being transloaded from train cars to trucks and hauled out for oil field use.

“A lot of my constituency in Santa Rita is very concerned about the rumors of that going in,” said Ford, of Precinct 4. “It doesn’t belong in the center of San Angelo because of sand, dust and traffic.”

City officials said the business plan fits city ordinances for the site, zoned light manufacturing. Frack sand does not pose a threat under zoning requirements against solid, liquid or hazardous waste.

Ford said he is glad he lives in Christoval.

“Think about it,” he said. “With that zoning you’ve got very large 150,000-pound trucks driving down streets that are made for regular traffic. I’m not very happy at all with that kind of entity in the middle of San Angelo.”

The location is on South Hill Street, a block east of South Bryant Boulevard, and runs roughly from West Avenue H to West Avenue K, with Mayfield to the south and industrial buildings to the east.

Anthony Wilson, the city’s public information officer, said the plan is “being considered.”

“Because the property is currently zoned for that kind of activity,” he said, “we would not require a zoning change.”

City planning manager Rebeca Guerra explained in an email how the planned operation fits city code.

“According to the owner of the property, the product to be transloaded is a type of sand, which, per his correspondence with the city, is ‘pure, devoid of impurities and dry when it will arrive at the subject property to be transloaded into enclosed 18 wheelers.’ ”

Kevin Boyd, the city’s senior planner, said what remains for the operation is getting a permit for large truck scales — which may take a couple weeks or less.

“At one time it was heavy manufacturing, but now is light manufacturing,” Boyd said. “Heavy manufacturing certainly made sense at that time because of the close proximity to the railroad, and a lot of industry relied on easy access to rail lines, making it an industrial corridor. It’s not clear when it changed to light manufacturing.”

Related: Fracking requires a special type of sand

Lee Pfluger, owner of Southwest Orient Properties LLC, also went through subdivision plat process in which the city required the company to improve the property.

“They have to add restroom facilities and parking spaces,” Boyd said. “There are no plans for offices on that site.”

He spoke about the traffic situation.

“Generally it seems like the ideal accounting situation would account for traffic,” Boyd said. “But if they don’t have to go to the Zoning Board of Adjustment for approval, there is no mechanism for us to require improvement of the streets — or limit the amount of truck freight.

“It is very unfortunate, but there is nothing we can do to require mitigation,” he added.

A flier circulating around Santa Rita lists traffic congestion as one potential problem, along with the health hazard of air pollution, factory noise, increased crime and lower property values.

The flier impels residents to contact local representatives.

“Tell them to stop the sand facility,” it implores. “Keep our children safe and our air clean.”

With enclosed railroad cars, and covered sand-hauling trucks, how much sand — and silica dust — can get into the atmosphere?

Tiny Barnhart, midway between Mertzon and Big Lake west southwest of San Angelo, has a similar sand depot.

Lifelong Barnhart area resident and rancher Buck Owens had something to say about it.

“When they load those trucks up and the wind is blowing out of the south, it makes a mess all over,” Owens said. “There is a lot of dirt, a lot of dust, a lot of trucks, a lot of activity going on 24 hours a day.”

Texas Pacifico Railroad operates the section of rail from the border town of Presidio through San Angelo to near Fort Worth. Company representatives were unavailable for comment and reportedly out of town for the week.

Pfluger, and staff who were knowledgeable about the project, were out of the country.

“The sand is very hard, round sand that is mined in the northern part of the USA,” Pfluger wrote to the city in an earlier email. “At the mine, the raw sand is washed to remove dirt and fine impurities, then sized to a consistent size, then dried and loaded into enclosed railroad cars.”

Chamber of Commerce officials were not familiar with the planned sand depot.

 

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