A Glimpse At Yesteryears Barnhart
The Voices of Barnhart - Warning San Angelo
Irion County Commissioner John Nanny
remembers better days in Barnhart!
Alan & Beverly McGuire - blessed by the oil boom in the area - sleepless by the truck traffic! Counts trucks - not sheep!
Linda Baker manages the Barnhart Community Center
Doyle & Frances Shaw - being forced to
move for health reasons - and their business was damaged by frac sand!
Doyle & Frances Shaw's Ice Machine
forced to be moved because of sand!
Can You Imagine Hearing These Sounds 24/7
Can You Imagine Dealing With This Traffic
...dying a frac sand death...
I headed to Barnhart one morning in hopes of learning what it is like to live with a frac sand transloading facility across the track from you. Thanks to some wonderful longtime residents who welcomed me to their monthly community lunch, I got so much more than I ever expected.
County Commissioner John Nanny encouraged me to come on Thursday, December 11th, to the monthly luncheon that would be held at the Community Center. He promised that many residents would be there who would have stories to share. He surely delivered on that.
After what I learned and experienced in Barnhart, I don't think you can fully understand the impact of living with such a heavy industrial industry in your neighborhood as this, unless you literally walk the streets and talk with those who have and are living with it. There are things you would never think of such as, impacts on the air you breathe, the home you live in, the congestion on the streets, and the community you know and love.
I left there with an appreciation of the lives that are being harmed by this and a feeling of witnessing firsthand the death of what once was a happy little ranching community. The community is dying. There are no children out playing and enjoying life in Barnhart any longer. Everyone is experiencing breathing issues, whether it's lung, heart, allergies, or sinus issues. Their health is impacted. In just three years lives have markedly been changed.
After the interviews were over and the cameras were packed away, Comm. Nanny showed me the west wall of the community center. It is lined with newspaper clippings, photos, and writings telling the Barnhart story from its glorious days of being the nation's second largest livestock shipping yard to the families that made Barnhart the wonderful community it once was.
Nanny spoke of the first death blow being when they had to close the school. Kids are now bussed to either Mertzon or Big Lake for school. Families no longer move to Barnhart to raise their kids. There is no school and with the poor air quality, the children can't run and play outside like country kids love to do. As Nanny said, "It's [Barnhart's] dying." The frac sand transloading facility has thrown the final punch to knock out Barnhart. From the looks of things, it's just a matter of time before it's a ghost town with maybe a convenience store for the truckers.
As we left the Community Center (and one of the best home cooked lunches I've had in awhile), we followed Frances Shaw over to the self-service ice machine business they have on the main highway. With camera in hand to video whatever her findings would be after only six hours since she last cleaned the machine, it was hard to comprehend the findings.
This frac sand dust is so fine that somehow it can seep into and through double sealed, two compartments deep, locked down doors, into the inner chambers of this machine. As she ran her hand along the top ledge inside where the filter sits against the actual ice maker, the dust poured down on us. You would have thought this was a stunt in a magic show. Mr. Shaw had told me that the sand was now seeping into the ice trays, so they are having to move the machine. The frac sand had already destroyed the mechanisms in the coin box. The very next day the ice machine was removed and put into storage until they can find a new location.
Only five minutes of standing and videoing the ice machine was all it took to affect my breathing. I felt it in my lungs on the way home. The next morning I was hoarse. I returned to Barnhart on Saturday, two days later, to get a few more shots. While my original trip was on a day with little to no wind and after a light rain, Saturday was windy. It was a normal day in Barnhart. The dust began seeping into my car several miles before I reached Barnhart. I could feel it, I could taste it.
I've thought often about these precious people I met this past week. I can now understand the real impact that having a frac sand transloading facility on Hill St. in San Angelo is going to have on the people around it. While I once only pictured the rail cars and trucks on Mr. Pfluger's land and thought the dust and noise was going to be terrible, I now understand that these trucks are going to be parked up and down neighborhood streets awaiting their signal to fill the truck. They will be blocking driveways, roadways, and preventing kids from enjoying an afternoon bike ride.
The noise will be life changing, the dust will be a health threat, children and elderly will need to move away from the location, and all the area around it will be coated with a dust that will seep into anything and everything. The neighborhood where pride of ownership shows will become trashed, covered in dirt, and a continuous roar of trucks. The pristine area will never be the same. Just ask Comm. John Nanny about his childhood community when they got a frac sand transloading facility.
I drove around town looking for something that might resemble days gone by in Barnhart. The Methodist church just up the hill a bit appeared to be freshly spruced up for church the next morning. Then I thought, no. They can't wash cars, yards, or anything outside because of their water shortage. God must have protected it or blown away the dust and dirt for the moment. It gave a glimpse to me at least of what must have been the better days.
It's important that you listen to their stories. They shared these stories for San Angelo's benefit. Their community can't be saved at this point without a miracle. San Angelo's downtown and heart of our city still can be saved if men and women are brave enough to fight for it. Their video stories are in the www.ChristianReporterNews.com.
I want to personally encouraged everyone to attend the next Zoning Board of Adjustment (ZBA) meeting on January 5, 2015 at 1:30 p.m. and let your presence speak of your dissatisfaction with this location. Then on February 2, 2015, at 1:30 p.m., return once again to fight this battle at the appeal hearing. Both meetings will be held at the Convention Center.
The Zoning Board of Adjustment (ZBA) is a board of appointees. Each member is appointed by a City Council person or the Mayor of San Angelo. This board will make the decision whether or not the proposed silica sand depot will go in this location on Hill Street. The decision is not the decision of the City Council, but their appointees.
San Angelo has too much to lose for you to not find the time and the way to make sure you are in attendance at each of these meetings. The silica frac sand operation does not need to be located in the heart of San Angelo!
Let's Keep San Angelo Beautiful!