Compared to the Rockies, Sierras, Cascades, Tetons, and other mountainous regions of the lower-48, the Texas hill country isn’t so grand – but we relish it and it’s all we have. At least for a while…
From San Antonio up to Buda the hills west of I-35 consist of limestone and caliche and are being decimated by cement plants. Limestone contains many of the main ingredients needed for the production of construction materials, as well as Portland cement, and is also crushed to make road base. Cement plants (such as Cemex, Colorado Materials, Ingram Readymix, Hunter Industries, and Lhoist North America) are thriving in central Texas, as are the concrete and construction companies using/needing cement for concrete and caliche/limestone for roadfill. No importing of cement happens here.
But look what it does…Once the scrapers and shovelers start digging, they become voracious in order for supply to meet demand. After one area has been gouged out, another begins being quarried. Although multiple permits – from clean air permits to blasting permits – are required before a company can begin mining limestone and caliche, once started there is no stopping them.
I took this photo last summer:
Here is the same area a few weeks ago:
Besides the topography issue, many, if not most, of the quarries lie within the recharge zone of the Edwards Aquifer. So while there may be endless restrictions to safeguard our precious water supply, it is impossible to know what the ultimate damage will be once the hills have been depleted.
During rainy seasons (which are not consistent), water will flow directly from the limestone.
In Landa Park, Comal Springs comes right out of the hillside. In limited swimming areas of the Comal River you can see the water bubbling up from the bottom. This can also be seen in a glass-bottomed boat at Aquarena Springs in San Marcos, once inhabited by Mastodons and the Tonkawa Indians. An average of 200 million gallons of water bubbles up everyday.
Pollution-wise these plants produce carbon emissions, but their lights are oh so pretty at night, especially for the subdivisions next door.
Also, the constant flow of trucks to/from the plants clog small roads and interstate ramps/exits. However, that’s good, too – more trucks equal more jobs and more money for the oil companies supplying the diesel for the hundreds of daily hauling trucks.
The pluses just keep on coming…Used up quarries are often recycled into amusement parks and shopping centers, like Fiesta Texas and The Alamo Quarry in San Antonio, which attract tourists, provide business revenues, and create jobs.
Aside from quarrying being ugly, it reduces the hill country. What once was a distinct ridge line from Selma, Shertz, New Braunfels, San Marcos, Kyle, and Buda is becoming dippy with huge chunks dug out of it. But that is progress, is it not? It definitely helps to keep the Texas economy growing better than in any other state in recessionary times…And there you have it – one aspect of the good, the bad, and the reality of living in the hill country.