TESPA files legal action against rock quarry
The Trinity Edwards Springs Protection Association — a nonprofit to protect the Trinity and Edwards Aquifers — has sent its First Amended Notice of Intent to bring a legal action against Far South Mining, LLC, for a proposed rock quarry and rock crushing operation in Hays County.
TESPA requested FSM abandon its plans for a rock quarry on Needmore Ranch between Wimberley and San Marcos. The NOI, sent on Nov. 7, triggers a 60-day waiting period required by law before TESPA’s lawsuit against FSM can be filed in federal court. This waiting period will end on Jan. 6, 2023.
This notice is not the first served by TESPA against FSM; the two organizations had previously reached a settlement concerning the groundwater permit for the same site earlier this year. The result of this was that Needmore may only use groundwater pumped under its permit for agricultural irrigation and wildlife use.
The FSM permit request estimates the footprint of the operation to be 2,000 x 4,000 feet in size. That is a tract of land equivalent to 127 football fields.
The Texas Commission on Environmental Quality already approved the quarry permit for air quality. However, the 44-page NOI from TESPA cites numerous potential violations of federal rules, including the Endangered Species Act, Clean Water Act and the Safe Drinking Water Act.
In its NOI, TESPA asks for an injunction to prohibit the quarry/ rock crushing activities because it believes FSM has failed to apply for and to obtain the permits required to comply with the Edwards Aquifer Act and regulations of the Edwards Aquifer Protection Program.
“Contamination of water by a limestone quarry is nothing new, but this situation is particularly dangerous because of the location, right on top of the recharge zone of the Edwards Aquifer, where the groundwater is very near the surface and very much in jeopardy,” said Jeff Mundy, attorney for TESPA. “This type of mining operation injects an explosive slurry mixture of ammonium nitrate and diesel fuel into the limestone. The residue of ammonium nitrate and diesel accumulates over time, contaminating the water supply.”
“Also, as area residents learned during the construction of the Permian Highway Pipeline — as it attempted to drill under the Blanco River — fluids injected into holes in the karst, such as this area, are lost as they go into the voids in the karst,” Mundy continued. “Injecting ammonium nitrates and diesel into the Edwards Aquifer Recharge Zone is a threat to our water.”
This latest NOI, like communiqués before it, states that the quarry and rock crushing operation will likely cause harm to endangered species such as the Comal Springs Dryopid Beetle, Golden-cheeked Warbler, San Marcos Springs Salamander and the Texas Blind Salamander. According to the notice, there is also a potential for contamination of groundwater and drinking water supplies from quarry-related activities that involve blasting, operation of heavy equipment, rock crushing and an estimated 100-plus truckloads of rock per day on Hays County roads.
“We are in communication with the Barton Springs Edward Aquifer Conservation District management, and our area elected local and state officials about our issues and concerns,” said TESPA Executive Director Patrick Cox, Ph.D. “We appreciate the vigilance of everyone in our community who wants to protect the quality and integrity of the environment and preserve the Texas Hill Country.”