March 2008 – State & Province News
by Therese Dunphy, Executive Editor
The Arizona Republic reports that a research geologist with the Arizona Geological Survey confirmed that there is no asbestos associated with mining operations in the Agua Fria River bed. The geologist addressed concerns that sand and gravel mines may send asbestos into the air at a Maricopa County Mining District Recommendation Committee meeting. A former member of the advisory board, Lyle Tuttle, said that residents were concerned that mining companies would crush concrete that contained asbestos, but the board chairman, Frank Mendola of Cemex, pointed out that an asbestos survey has to be conducted prior to a building’s demolition. Any asbestos found, he noted, had to be removed from the building and sent to an asbestos landfill. Board member Tom Lowry of Vulcan Materials Co. added that Vulcan has a landfill for recycle work and inspects every load that comes in.
The California Climate Action Registry (The Registry) designated Vulcan Materials Co., Western Division, as a Climate Action Leader following verification of the company’s 2006 inventory report. During recent years, U.S. companies increasingly have begun to voluntarily track greenhouse gas emissions as part of their corporate sustainability programs. During the development of its greenhouse gas inventory, Vulcan began to explore opportunities to quantify its contributions to reducing greenhouse gases at its facilities.
A 12-year effort to permit a gravel mine on 200 acres of the 8,000-acre M&T Ranch, southwest of Chico, failed on a 3-2 vote of the Butte County supervisors in late January. According to the Chico Enterprise-Record, the vote came a day after a seven-hour marathon public hearing concerning the pros and cons of the project. Baldwin Contracting Co. has a lease on the land and had been trying to get permission to remove up to 5.5 million cubic yards of gravel from the site. In February 2007, the Butte County Planning Commission granted conditional approval of the project. That approval included 35 conditions. The decision was immediately appealed and 11 months of board of supervisors hearings ensued. During the final discussion, two members expressed concerns about the mine’s impact on traffic patterns, road wear, and air quality issues. Those two were joined by a third member in voting to affirm the appeal.
Indian River County officials renewed the permits of two sand mines on 82nd Avenue despite neighbor concerns about truck traffic and air quality, however those complaints may lead the county commission to pull the compliance bonds, the Press Journal reports. If that happens, the commission will effectively fine Ranch Road Lake Sand Mine and Range Road Mine and — at least temporarily — shut down their businesses for allowing their trucks to violate county regulations, the newspaper reports. At issue is the fact that trucks are traveling south to State Road 60 rather than taking the permitted route to the north. The two companies have bonds of a combined $69,590 to ensure compliance with county regulations. The chief enforcement officer for the county has recommended that the commission pull both bonds. Since the mines can’t run without the bonds, they would be closed until they post new ones.
After a zoning variance was thrown out in court, Dr. Phil Hecht, a veterinarian, is trying to keep his gravel mining permit intact as he tries to submit a rezoning request to Oronoko Township. In December, a judge ruled that the Oronoko Zoning Board of Appeals erred in February 2006 when it granted Hecht a variance. The township board granted a mining permit in 2007 based on that variance. Hecht’s site in Berrien Springs is zoned residential, but he is trying to have it rezoned as agricultural, which has been the land’s longtime use. According to the South Bend Tribune, Hecht says that he has spent $30,000 trying to secure a $60 permit. He asked the township to temporarily suspend his permit as he seeks the rezoning. The board members voiced concerns as to whether Hecht has a permit since the permit it granted in 2007 is null and void following the judge’s ruling. The board tabled the request until it secures a legal opinion from the township attorney.
A 64-year-old man died in late January after falling from a platform into water in the sand pit at Dartmouth Sand and Gravel in Great Bend. According to the Associated Press, Robert Deines and his son were working at the pit when his son left to dump a load of sand and returned to find his father missing. When the father couldn’t be reached by cell phone, his son called Great Bend firefighters, who summoned a dive team that found Deines’ body within minutes. Authorities are not sure what caused Deines to fall from the platform.
The Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection announced that it had assessed $20,700 in penalties against R. Bates and Sons, Inc., of Clinton for solid waste management violations that occurred at the company’s sand and gravel pit on South Meadow Road in Clinton. During a December 2006 inspection, agency personnel noted the presence of asphalt, brick, concrete, tires, wood waste, metal, and miscellaneous solid wastes which were not permitted for disposal at the site. The company agreed to remove all the materials off site for recycling or disposal. It will also pay a $2,000 penalty to the state and will fund a supplemental environmental project valued at $18,700.