San Antonians demand immediate action after series of fires at southwest-side recycling plant

Monterrey Iron & Metal, a recycling facility located off Frio City Road in San Antonio, has been the site of six major fires since 2019, according to the San Antonio Fire Department. The incidents have raised concerns among residents in the nearby neighborhood, who claim that their health is being compromised by the facility’s activities. In September, a fire at the facility burned for over 10 hours, further exacerbating these concerns.

In response to these issues, affected residents gathered for a community meeting at Arizona Café on Thursday evening. Texas Sen. José Menendez, Rep. Liz Campos, and Roxy Ramirez, zoning supervisor for the City of San Antonio’s code enforcement division, were present to listen to the emotional testimonies of the neighbors. The residents expressed their desire for the recycling company to adhere to health and safety regulations and sought answers regarding the cause of the fires.

City and state leaders also expressed their frustration at the repeated rescheduling of the court date to discuss violations at the facility. Larry Garcia, a resident who has been researching salvage yards for over a decade, highlighted the increasing presence of salvage yards in Districts 4 and 5. He emphasized the need for action and accountability in addressing the repeated violations at Monterrey Iron & Metal.

Rudy Lopez, vice president of the Thompson Neighborhood Association, and Garcia organized the community meeting and conducted door-to-door visits to inform their neighbors about the gathering. Lopez shared that many residents, particularly Spanish speakers, feel that their voices are not being heard due to language barriers. The community meeting provided an opportunity for these residents to express their concerns and demand a resolution.

Currently, San Antonio city ordinance prohibits salvage yards from operating in residential areas. However, Monterrey Iron & Metal is exempt from these rules as it has been operating for over 100 years and is considered a grandfathered business. This exemption allows the company to follow previous laws and regulations. Garcia pointed out that the same violations observed a decade ago still persist, emphasizing the need for a cleanup and stricter regulations.

During the community meeting, residents implored state and city leaders to take action and address the ongoing issues at the facility. They emphasized the impact on their quality of life and the health risks they face due to the recurring fires. Menendez assured the residents that all code violations reported by the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ) have been resolved, but he stressed that the frequency of fires is unacceptable.

Officer Ramirez, who oversees salvage yards, revealed that there are three active violations at the recycling plant, including prohibited piles, improper rodent control, and the lack of a proper fire safety path. The court date regarding these violations has been rescheduled for December, but Ramirez was not informed of the reason for the delay. The San Antonio Fire Department and the city’s Development Services Department are collaborating to find ways to mitigate the fire issue.

Although HAZMAT teams did not find any “reportable quantities” of harmful chemicals in the air and water after the September fire, concerns about the facility’s impact on the environment and residents’ health persist. Jordan Vexler, Chief Operating Officer for Monterrey Iron & Metal, provided a statement expressing the company’s commitment to addressing the concerns raised by the community.

Another community meeting is expected to take place before the end of the year to monitor the progress made in resolving the issues surrounding Monterrey Iron & Metal. The residents, along with city and state leaders, are determined to find a solution that ensures the safety and well-being of the neighborhood.

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