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Dallas, TX
Thursday, September 29, 2022
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Local Roofing Factory to Gradually Shut Down Amid Neighborhood Pushback

Business

GAF shingle factory in Dallas | Image by NBC DFW

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In the culmination of a multi-year battle over its spot in West Dallas, GAF’s local shingle factory announced it would wind down business operations over the next seven years amid “pollution concerns,” despite its almost century-long standing operation in the area.

“Our plan allows for these individuals and families to be supported through this transition while also allowing for the development of the West Dallas neighborhood to meet the future needs of the city and community,” Joe Perri, a GAF spokesman, said in a statement.

With the official announcement of its seven-year closure, one local mother’s year-long campaign against the 80-year-old GAF shingle factory comes to an end.

Janie Cisneros, a local West Dallas resident and founder of GAF’s Gotta Go, grew up next to the factory. “It’s always been in the background,” said Cisneros. “The burnt rubber smell, the burnt asphalt smell, the rotten egg smell.”

Wanting to raise her children in a different environment, Cisneros decided to look into GAF’s environmental impact. She said she was shocked to discover how “environmentally hazardous” the plant allegedly was.

A 2020 report by researchers at Paul Quinn College determined the area surrounding GAF’s West Dallas property had some of the “worst air pollution in Dallas County.”

The Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ) found the GAF factory had a history of violations of air pollutants such as sulfur dioxide and particulate matter (PM), for which GAF paid fines and took corrective action.

Exposure to pollutants like sulfur dioxide — a heavy, colorless, and pungent gas — harms the human respiratory system and makes breathing difficult.

In 2019 the GAF plant emitted more sulfur dioxide than any other factory in Dallas, with 125 tons of sulfur dioxide getting into the surrounding neighborhoods, according to TCEQ.

“We live next door to a mega polluter,” Cisneros said. “For us to have a cleaner environment, a healthier environment, we have to remove what’s hurting us.”

Had GAF not agreed to a gradual close down of its factory, residents told Narvaez that they were ready to challenge the company through a legal process called amortization for non-conforming uses and structures.

When researching City Hall documents, residents reportedly uncovered that GAF was “non-conforming” because its Certificate of Occupancy or Special Use Permit from the City of Dallas was not up to date, according to staffers at The Southern Dallas Neighborhood Self Defense Project. The discovery came about as GAF was applying to renew its “Title V” operating permit from the State and EPA.

GAF proposed a “legally binding winding down of operations in West Dallas over the next seven years,” according to spokesman Perri.

“What GAF said is that they have heard the community loud and clear and that they recognize West Dallas is changing and becoming more residential,” said Dallas City Council Member Omar Narvaez at a news conference Thursday. “This industrial use just no longer fits in West Dallas.”

When GAF built its shingle factory, West Dallas was a fundamentally different area. Dallas proper, which had only about 295,000 residents in 1940, provided limited-to-no services to the area now known as West Dallas, which was primarily industrial. Few households had running water or indoor toilets, and outhouses were common due to the high cost of septic tanks for indoor plumbing.

Today, the metropolitan city has a population of about 1,288,000, and a wave of development is transforming the West Dallas community as it has other parts of the city. Apartments, restaurants, and retail buildings are all under construction in West Dallas.

Not too far from the GAF plant is the site of Atlas Metal Works. The industrial factory is under planned redevelopment and will transform into two five-story apartment buildings with more than 400 units and a garage.

Pollution controversies, as well as West Dallas development, may have influenced GAF’s decision to announce its seven-year shutdown. Nevertheless, GAF is keeping business moving forward.

The company says it plans to open a new asphalt shingle recycling factory in Corsicana. The recycling plant is a part of GAF’s 2023 growth plan, which includes expanding its factory in Ennis.     

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