DEQ fines mining operation in Cascade Locks

CASCADE LOCKS -- A contested mining operation will be fined for producing too much dust by the Oregon Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ).

But last week the Oregon Department of Transportation determined that the 30,000-40,000 tons of crushed rock generated by L&H Grading of Salem during the past month has failed to meet its durability standards for freeway repaving.

On Tuesday the firm, which was subcontracted to operate the crusher, pulled its equipment out of the Port of Cascade Locks' industrial park to try again in Dallesport, Wash.

That left port officials with several huge mountains of aggregate to sell off.

The port's contract with J.C. Compton, Inc., lead contractor for the Oregon Department of Transportation project, was set up so the Portland-based company would pay about $1.10 per ton for asphalt batched at the site. The aggregate would be used for Interstate 84 construction at the western end of the Gorge this fall. Port director Chuck Daughtry said the port now has legal issues to work out with Compton over the ownership of the rock and its potential resale value.

On Monday, DEQ sent an official notice of violation to L&H Grading for its failure to sufficiently dampen the rock piles and crusher to keep the dust down. That notice came after Frank Messina, DEQ environmental specialist, visited the site and warned the company to take better measures to control the dust generated during the operation.

In addition, L&H Grading failed to produce a copy of its Air Contaminant Discharge Permit for Messina's review even though that is required to be kept on site by state law. Upon further investigation, Messina learned the firm had also not provided the proper relocation notice to DEQ's main office prior to setting up the crusher in Cascade Locks, as required under the air discharge permit.

Messina undertook his investigation after receiving complaints about a billowing cloud of dust generated by the rock crushing operation, some of which were even registered from across the Columbia River in Stevenson, Wash.

When these same complaints were registered with the port's administrative office in early August, Chuck Daughtry, port director, requested a copy of Compton's DEQ operational permit but, as of Tuesday, that request had not been fulfilled. Under the port's permit from the Oregon Department of Geology and Mineral Industries, leasees of the old rock quarry are required to hold all necessary permits and comply with state and local land-use regulations.

However, whether that condition had been adequately fulfilled was intended to be the subject of Thursday's Cascade Locks Planning Commission meeting.

Resident Sandra Kelley had asked to have the Aug. 9 hearing of the quasi-judicial body set set over to gather more evidence that would show the mining operation was in violation of city code and both state and federal environmental laws. City and port officials are unclear about whether the Aug. 23 meeting will still place.

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