On Wednesday, Oct. 4, at 7 p.m. the planning commission will determine whether to permit a controversial new asphalt plant in lower Mendenhall Valley near the Troopers' office and the fire training center. This asphalt plant would create air emissions, noise, heavy traffic, and noxious odors that would affect residents who live on Mendenhall Peninsula and in the valley, depending on which direction the wind blows. Asphalt fumes and air pollution could result each time the plant operates, which would be daily from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. from April to November.
Although the plant would be sited in a zoned industrial area, the emissions clouds would travel into residential areas well beyond the property boundary.
But the greater concern for all residents should be the effect on airport landings in the likely event that the asphalt plant's vapor discharges would obscure visibility for aircraft using "the Cut" approach over Mendenhall Peninsula. Look at the plumes that currently emanate from Lemon Creek to get an idea of the probable clouds would be created by the plant. The Lemon Creek clouds from the incinerator and the current asphalt plant float across Gastineau Channel to Douglas frequently and in multiple lenses. This phenomenon occurs year-round, not just in cold weather, and makes the air over Gastineau Channel blue and gray with streaks of air pollution.
The air emissions from the proposed asphalt plant would also increase the formation of fog which occurs regularly when the cold glacier water in the Mendenhall River meets the warmer ocean water near the airport. Year-round fog rises at the mouth of the river and fills the meadows and wetlands upstream near the plant site. Fog is more likely to form when there are minute particles in the air such as the asphalt plant would discharge.
This proposed site is the wrong place for an asphalt plant. The city's project report recommends denying the permit. That is the correct choice for the planning commission to make, too.
Laurie Ferguson Craig has been active in Alaskans for Juneau and the Juneau Audubon Society.