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Newsmonger: Residents oppose Newell Recycling move, Push and pull over Bexar County Jail

Photo: Michael Barajas, License: N/A

Michael Barajas

Vicious (re)cycle? Maria Gonzalez (right) and daughter-in-law Sandra Garcia in their front yard off New Laredo Highway, directly across from Newell Recycling's proposed facility (below).

Photo: , License: N/A

Residents oppose Newell Recycling move

A smelly, metal-shredding neighbor may complicate ongoing plans to revive the iconic Lone Star Brewery to its former glory. Newell Recycling has been operating in Southtown since the 1950s, taking in tons of copper, brass, batteries, aluminum, junked cars, and bulky household appliances every year for shredding. Kicking Newell out of Southtown is key to the area's redevelopment dreams, but the plan to move the recycling facility to the South Side has angered a small group of homeowners who don't want industry dumped on their doorsteps and has drawn opposition from District 4 Councilman Rey Saldaña. "The way I look at this case is it's simple," Saldaña said last week. "Yes, I do want Lone Star to redevelop. I think it's a worthy project. But no, I do not want a salvage yard built in the front yards of residents in my district. Unfortunately those two things seem to almost be inextricably tied at this point."

The six or so homes seated directly across from Newell's proposed new location on south New Laredo Highway are easy to ignore — city staffers who recommended changes allowing Newell to move in completely overlooked the small patch of houses when showing maps of the area to Planning Commission members last week. Newell pointed to a number of industrial facilities that already dot the lands north and south of the proposed site, including a CPS plant and steel manufacturing facility to the north and an automobile salvage yard to the south. "It becomes a question of where do we go if not here?" insisted local attorney Daniel Ortiz, representing Newell.

Families living in the area say industry's always been far enough away to ignore, never presenting a problem. What makes Newell's proposal different, said Maria Gonzalez, is that it would put a facility directly in front of people's homes. "It's wonderful that San Antonio is growing, I love that, but not if this is what it's going to do to the rest of us," said Gonzalez, who's lived in a home directly across from the proposed development for 30 years.

Records from the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality illustrate why the families are worried. Since 2003 residents living near Newell's current Southtown location have called six times to file complaints over powerful odors emanating from the facility. TCEQ records show Newell has twice been fined for violating clean air standards. One enforcement action in 1999 called for a $116,250 fine, of which Newell paid half, while another 2008 TCEQ enforcement action fined Newell $85,000. The 2008 action accused Newell of spewing emissions containing high concentrations of lead. Samples taken in the late 1990s, according to one commission report, showed lead contaminated nearby soil "in and around the 500-800 blocks of Probandt Street and along Lone Star Boulevard near its intersection with Probandt Street." The TCEQ also accused Newell of dumping industrial waste into or near the San Antonio River, waste discharges containing iron, chromium, aluminum, arsenic, barium, cadmium, lead, and mercury. Lead contamination from the facility, one report stated, had "the potential to pollute surface water through surface water run-off and to seep into the Edwards Aquifer."

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