Blue Heron in flight

Saturday, May 24, 2008

Granite Construction - Industrial Polluter

Jerri Arganda sent this over. As some of you know, Granite Constuction is attempting to site a huge quarry a little over a half mile from my house on the other side of the Santa Margarita Ecological Preserve. This quarry has the patriotic sobriquet of Liberty Quarry as in denying us our own. We are concerned about dust, silicate particulants, water quality ( a stream flows through the property and runs into the Santa Margarita), noise, loss in property value and the attendant loss of our general peace of mind. They have been very adversarial in the past but are quick to proclaim the benign environmental effects of their services. Their hired gun is named Gary Johnson. I will try to follow up on Granite's appeal of this citation.

This from the State of Oregon - Department of Environmental Quality:

News Release

For release: September 4, 2007

Jeff Bachman, Office of Compliance and Enforcement, Portland, (503) 229-5950
Brian White, Communications and Outreach, Portland, (503) 229-6044
Mike Wolf, Water Quality Division, Eugene, (541) 686-7848

DEQ Penalizes California-based Contractor on State Highway Project $240,000 for Water Pollution Violations

Agency cites Granite Construction for 40 of 61 violations regarding discharges into Yaquina River and its tributaries from June 2006 through May 2007.

The Oregon Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) has issued penalties totaling $240,000 against a California-based construction company for numerous water quality violations during its work on the U.S. Highway 20 Pioneer Mountain to Eddyville realignment project in Lincoln County.

DEQ issued the fine on Aug. 29 to Granite Construction Co., based in Watsonville, Calif. The firm is the lead contractor with the Oregon Department of Transportation (ODOT) for ODOT’s major Pioneer Mountain to Eddyville project. The realignment project is aimed at straightening dangerous curves and improving traffic flow along the highway’s crossing of the Coast Range between Newport and Corvallis. ODOT had awarded a $130 million contract in June 2005 to the Yaquina River Constructors, a joint venture team comprised of Granite Construction Co. and Wilder Construction Co., a majority-owned subsidiary of Granite Construction Co.

The violations, many of which involved discharge of sediments into Yaquina River tributaries as well as one case of discharging to the Yaquina River itself, occurred from June 2006 through this past May. In July, ODOT and Granite Construction reached an agreement in principle to temporarily suspend the project for up to two years, beginning Sept. 1, 2007, to allow both parties to complete additional geotechnical site investigations to address potential problems with landslides along the realignment route.

In assessing the penalties, DEQ expressed serious concerns about Granite Construction’s failure to take into account potential impacts to water quality when it decided to clear roughly 160 acres of steeply sloped terrain in the project area during the summer of 2006, shortly after work began on the project. DEQ was also alarmed about the company’s failure to implement adequate erosion controls before the onset of the 2006-07 rainy season in the Coast Range. Due to lack of adequate protective measures, silt and sediment from the cleared, steep slopes eroded and discharged into the Yaquina River and several of its tributaries, including Eddy Creek, Trapp Creek, Crystal Creek, Little Elk Creek and Cougar Creek. These streams provide valuable spawning and rearing habitat for sensitive fish species, including cutthroat and steelhead trout and coho, chinook and chum salmon.

The discharges increased the amount of organic matter and sediment into the river and tributaries, causing turbidity levels to exceed state standards. Deposition of sediments can harm aquatic life by covering up food sources, damaging fish gills, smothering fish eggs and invertebrate organisms living in stream beds, and impairing the ability of fish to feed and reproduce. DEQ noted a total of 61 water quality violations on the various affected streams, from incidents that took place beginning on June 8, 2006 and extending through May 2, 2007. Of these, penalty amounts were attached to 40 of the more serious violations.

On May 8, 2007, DEQ had fined ODOT $90,000 for violations of its National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System permit in association with the same highway project. ODOT did not appeal the penalty.

Granite Construction has until Sept 20 to appeal. The company has been making corrective actions at the site to help prevent further sediment discharge problems in the area while construction activities on the project are suspended.

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