September 1, 2010
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Baker’s Sand and Gravel deposited about 400 tons of sand around Fountain Circle in Huntsville as part of the preparations of the Rocket City Beach Bash, sponsored by the EarlyWorks Children’s Museum. Al.com reports that the sand was spread over a 200-yard section of Fountain Circle for a party that included beach-style activities, concessions, and music.
The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) issued warnings to seven Phoenix-area sand and gravel firms stating that they need to control dust or they could be barred from bidding on federal road projects or face fines. According to The Arizona Republic, the EPA sent violation notices to companies in July after conducting several inspections and has offered to talk about the violations before determining penalties. John Brock, an EPA enforcement officer, said the inspections took place after the agency adopted a Maricopa County environmental rule (Rule 316) for cement, asphalt, sand, and gravel operations as a federally enforceable regulation. The rule was adopted by the county in 1993 and has been revised three times since then. Brock told the newspaper that, based on his experience, it is unlikely that the EPA will declare any of the companies ineligible for federal highway projects as a penalty. Steve Trussell, executive director of the Arizona Rock Products Association, told the newspaper that state operators take the violations very seriously and have been meeting to discuss enforcement and compliance issues.
The Redlands City Council was expected to approve a plan that involves two cities, the mining activities of two companies, and approximately 1,200 square feet in the Santa Ana River Wash. Redlands Daily Facts reports that the council was expected to vote on six different conditional use permits that would allow Robertson’s Ready Mix and Cemex Construction Materials to expand their mining operations in the Santa Ana River Wash. Although part of the land is in Highland, the city ceded its authority in the project to Redlands. The Planning Commission unanimously approved the project and its conditional use permits in June, and one of the commissioners lauded the project as a collaborative effort between businesses and public agencies. The project limits mining to 6 million tons of aggregate per year, to be used by both cement companies.
A member of the Illinois Association of Aggregate Producers (IAAP) was visited by an MSHA field office supervisor shortly after hosting an open house at its operation. IAAP reports that, during the courtesy visit, the mine plant manager learned that MSHA believes that all visitors should have the necessary training and equipment, regardless of how many visitors there are. The field office supervisor also noted that producers in other states had allowed open house visitors to ride in haul trucks and operate the controls of excavators, which had only one seat belt for a single operator. The supervisor indicated that these are safety violations. Mining companies are to commit to training any visitor — regardless of the number of visitors — and each person entering an underground mine must have a light and self-rescuer, they were advised.
Gail Phillips, the president of the recently formed citizens group, Terre Town Community Association, told TribStar.com that she believes city officials have been less than forthcoming about several proposed community changes, including a proposed sand and gravel operation. She noted that the Indiana Department of Environmental Management’s Office of Air Quality has granted a permit to ST Construction to operate a sand and gravel pit several blocks away from a local elementary school. Phillips said that issues such as air and water quality, as well as traffic, are high on the group’s list of concerns, but it is most greatly disturbed by the lack of answers from the city and the participation of residents in the permit approval process.
Selectmen extended the Westminster Business Park’s sand and gravel removal permit so workers could finish the first phase of a construction project on the proposed 250-acre industrial lot. The Sentinel & Enterprise reports that the extension to the previous five-year earth removal permit expires June 15, 2011, and will allow developers to remove the remaining 50,000 cubic yards of sand and gravel to finish that portion of the project. The original permit, issued July 11, 2005, allowed excavation of 999,000 cubic yards of sand and gravel. After a question from a community member about whether the project was in compliance with its permit, the town’s engineering consultant confirmed that it was in compliance.
The Vergas City Council discussed concerns about a local gravel pit at its Aug. 2 meeting, according to the Frazee-Vergas Forum. After the council had received complaints about the site’s early work hours and dust, the city attorney determined that it could limit the work hours of the business and require it to control dust. A representative from the company thanked the council for working with the company and noted that it had changed its hours of operation and was watering the area to control dust.
Ambiguous rules and neighbor complaints led to an informal agreement between a local businessman and the mayor. Taos News reports that business owners operating near Gill Vigil’s asphalt and gravel business complained to the city council in an effort to have open-air piles of aggregates removed and dust mitigated. Vigil agreed to move material piles to the back of the lot and reduce their size within 30 days. The mayor noted that the city had determined that the business was in compliance in terms of zoning and would approach the matter as a nuisance issue.
The Oregon Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) is seeking public comments on its proposal to raise fees for its work on certifying that activities requiring licenses and permits comply with water quality standards. The fees would apply to most projects that remove material from, or place material into, navigable state waters, including sand and gravel operations and dredging for navigation channels. DEQ is proposing the fee “to ensure sufficient revenues and staff to implement the 401 certification program, including reducing the time for certification review and increasing technical assistance.” The increased fees would be based on projected program costs rather than volume of material removed or filled. The deadline for comments is Sept. 10. Comments can be e-mailed to email@example.com.
Kim Freeburn, owner of KD Sand & Gravel, Inc., recently diversified the business by adding U-Haul trucks and trailer rentals to the trucking, sand, and gravel company, the Statesman Journal reports. “I added U-Haul products and services because they would provide supplemental income,” Freeburn said of the change to the business, which was founded in 1949 by her grandfather and great uncle.
Infrastructure investment is expected to drop steeply throughout the state, with the exception of the Dallas area, the Dallas Morning News reports. The Texas Transportation Commission released a two-year spending plan that includes about $4.8 billion in contracts for 2011, but only about half that amount during 2012 as the federal stimulus funds disappear and the impact of the disappointing gas receipts is felt. In the state’s 15 transportation districts, only the Dallas district is expected to maintain stable funding. That is due, in large part, to the North Texas Tollway Authority, which paid $3.2 billion in upfront cash after winning the Sam Rayburn Tollway contract in 2007. During the next two years, an estimated $730 million of that money will be spent in the Dallas area.
The Washington State Department of Ecology updated its Sand and Gravel General Permit, which regulates water discharges from sand and gravel operations, quarries, and similar mining operations. It also covers concrete batch plants and hot-mix asphalt operations, as well as stockyards. Approximately 900 sites are covered by the permit, which takes effect Oct. 1. It is posted online at www.ecy.wa.gov/programs/wq/sand/index.html
According to The Leader-Telegram, the Chippewa Falls City Council voted 4-2 to sell a 3.2-acre parcel to EOG Resources for its sand processing operations. The land sold for $56,000, or $17,500 per acre. The council rejected the sale of the parcel last year when the offer was $8,000. A representative for the aggregates operator told the council that the land will be used for rail cars, which will decrease the frequency of rail blockages on city streets. By putting the land back on a taxable basis, the sale also offers additional municipal revenue, he noted. The company became the chief investor in the sand plant in May, when it acquired its interests from Canadian Sand & Proppants.