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Asphalt plant opposed by neighboring residents

Appeal questions pollution, noise, safety of facility in valley

Posted: Sunday, November 05, 2000

A city-approved asphalt plant operation in the lower West Mendenhall Valley is meeting resistance from a half-dozen local residents. They filed an appeal of the Juneau Planning Commission's Oct. 13 conditional use permit for an asphalt plant that borders their residential neighborhood. The appeal was filed with the city clerk Thursday.

Montana Creek Development Inc.'s permit allows it to produce asphalt at the site from April through October, which left it 10 working days to operate before the end of last month.

The plant operated for three days before shutting down for the season, according to area resident Cindy Field. "We're not sure how big this (exhaust) plume is going to be or how much noise there's going to be. And there was nothing set up to monitor it," she said.

Area homeowner Tom Hanna could see two plumes, he said, "one going up 200 feet and another, dingy brown, going out further into the valley. And the noise radiates from there."

The plant's operation "will change forever what the neighborhood is like," Hanna said.

One city official did keep an eye on the plant during two of its three days of operation. Environmental Zoning Inspector Dan Garcia said he "went through the permit conditions with the operator and found they needed improvement."

According to the permit, a requirement of Montana Creek Development is that a permanent noise mitigation berm be installed "at least as high as noise-producing components and high enough to break line of sight to adjacent residents prior to operation."

But what the plant has isn't a berm, Garcia said. "They put a 40-foot container van and two big piles of feed stock in line with the van, along with a pile of junked cars."

Garcia's measurements with a sound meter showed levels above those permitted, he said.

Other observations included the "plume of steam," though the only criterion for acceptability is whether Juneau Airport authorities object to the plume's extent and opacity and ask the operation to shut down, Garcia said.

In their appeal, the six residents cited the potential negative impacts on public safety, human health, noise, air emissions, odors, traffic and water quality of the adjacent wetlands environment. They also took issue with the commission's grant of a 10-day permit without defining how the operation would be evaluated during the test period.

The appeal also cites a 1996 Alaska Supreme Court decision against the city for similarly permitting a project without adequate information prior to permit approval.

The appeal now goes to the assembly, which will decide whether to hear it. If it does, it will chose to hear the appeal itself or appoint a hearing officer, said City Clerk Laurie Sica.



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