Grist Creek Aggregates California asphalt plant litigation continues

Rubberized asphalt production at Grist Creek Aggregates, Willits, CA, has temporarily halted due to winter weather but litigation surrounding the plant’s compliance with permit conditions is ongoing, with lawsuits from both environmental group Friends of Outlet Creek, and from the plant owners/operators.

A public hearing on January 29 at the Mendocino County Air Quality Management District in Ukiah will gather input on whether operations should be allowed to continue until a full environmental review can be completed.

Friends of Outlet Creek has filed a request to stop operations at the Grist Creek Aggregates site until a full environmental review of the plant can be completed. Public comment can be submitted to the Board until Jan. 21 at 5 p.m.

Friends of Outlet Creek is appealing Mendocino County Air Quality Management District’s issuance of a permit for the plant’s crumb rubber batch mixing apparatus, a piece of equipment required for completing rubberized asphalt production as required by the Caltrans’ paving contract held by Mercer-Fraser. The crumb rubber mixer was not originally included in the temporary “authority to operate” permit issued by the Mendocino County Air Quality Management District, and was found to be in violation by both the county and state Air Quality Board during inspections occurring in October.

The equipment was found to be in violation of original permitting conditions and had been brought to the site by a subcontracted company from Arizona. The plant operators applied for a permit after the notice of violation and received a permit from the Mendocino County Air Quality Management District on November 17.

Aside from the crumb rubber mixing permit, the state and county inspections found a range of permit conditions violations, including air quality violations crteating a public nuisance, and other issues with equipment, resulting in a total of more than $170,000 in fines and a strong recommendation to address violations from the state.

On January 4, Mendocino County Air Quality Management District’s Bob Scaglione said negotiations were continuing with Grist Creek Aggregates and Mercer Fraser to address these violations, and could provide no further information due to the ongoing lawsuit. He said some of the cited violations had been addressed but not all.

Scaglione also explained the Mendocino County Air Quality Management District was awaiting results from the third party source testing the plant is required to pass prior to receiving a permanent operating permit. The tests were required to be completed within 30 days of commercial operations, but the second half were delayed and completed in November. Scaglione said he had received the first part of the results but was awaiting response from Grist Creek/Mercer Fraser concerning the additional volatiles tests last week.

Scaglione confirmed that if the plant operates it must do so within the operating conditions established by the permit. “If they do not do so, there will be additional violations to deal with,” he said. Scaglione said the results of the third party testing will be public documents once they have been analyzed by the district.

The plant had been producing rubberized asphalt for a Caltrans paving contract taking place north of Laytonville, which Caltrans’ Phil Frisbie confirmed had been temporarily halted due to winter weather conditions. Frisbie said he expected rubberized asphalt production and paving to resume in the spring when conditions permit.

The plant is also required to comply with a variety of other requirements, including noise requirements set by the county planning agency, water quality requirements established by the Water Board, and more, and inspections will be continuing from county and state air quality boards.

Willits News

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