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Local activist voices concerns about construction site dust particles

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Photo by: Lara Dietrich | Multimedia Editor
The construction site on Aquarena Springs is one of many currently underway in San Marcos.

A local activist is sounding off on what she perceives to be an increased health risk created by construction in San Marcos.

Lisa Coppoletta has spoken about her concerns during citizen comment periods at past City Council meetings. She challenges local officials to pay more attention to how new construction sites affect the environment.

The community activist said she has been concerned about the increased “demolition dust” created by construction projects in the city, including the downtown site of a soon-to-be Schlotzky’s.

“Over the last two years, the residents that live near the Hunter road projects have endured toxic air quality from the Texas Department of Motor Transportation project,” Coppoletta said. “I have neighbors that have broken out into rashes from chemicals. The excavation dust made me so dizzy that I had to lay down every 15 minutes over the summer.”

Coppoletta said she contacted the city about the issue. TxDot came to the site and poured water to eliminate dust particles in the air.

“I really thank the city administrators that listened to me,” Coppoletta said. “They listened to my concerns and had TxDot bring water trucks out there.”

Being a vegetarian and gluten-free, Coppoletta said she is more susceptible to allergic reactions when toxins are in the air. After her encounter with illness from dust, Coppoletta turned her focus to the Triple Crown construction and followed trucks that were dumping dirt from the site at the H-E-B warehouse.

“I have my own YouTube channel, so I mounted my iPad and videoed me following these construction trucks,” Coppoletta said. “They were dumping mounds of dirt next to the H-E-B warehouse where our food supply is stored.”

Soon after, city officials rerouted trucks so they would not travel through the San Marcos Historic District, as Coppoletta suggested.

“Here would be my challenge—the developers, contractors and city planners who rubber stamp these projects should have to park their desks outside of construction sites for four hours and endure what all these workers and residents are having to endure,” Coppoletta said.

A major concern for Coppoletta is the construction on Aquarena Springs.

“I’m concerned for the students that park to go to class or walk around to come visit the campus,” Coppoletta said. “These students are being exposed to the same dust that made me sick and they are completely unaware of why they are getting sick. It is a toxic fume driving down Aquarena—the tar smell, you have the dust, you can see the dust on the skyline. People who are trying to live a healthy lifestyle can only do so much.”

Kristy Stark, assistant director of Planning and Development Services, said no construction site can have excess amounts of dust. There are inspectors that go to the sites on a weekly or daily basis to monitor the dust, she said.

“(Inspectors) are able to require contractors to bring water trucks to water down a site,” Stark said. “We have codes in place to require the contractor to address that, and in some cases, we have actually stopped construction on sites until they get the dust under control.”

While Coppoletta said she has faith in the city’s government, she believes there is still work to be done.

“Councilwomen Melissa Derrick and Lisa Prewitt have done a lot for the city when it comes to environmental concerns,” Coppoletta said. “I just pray that they start to integrate air quality concerns with all issues regarding expanding this city.”