I am writing to you to express my opposition of the Lakeside Industries asphalt plant being relocated to the old County Shops site on SR 169.
Let me begin my stating that I am NOT opposed to asphalt. As retired Union 302 and property developer, asphalt is an essential building material and important component of our country’s infrastructure.
I worked on the Alaska Pipeline project in the ’70s and for its entire duration, constructing the James W. Dalton Highway – a 414 mile supply road that supported the Trans-Alaska Pipeline System. Locally, I worked on the 405/167 interchange in the ‘80s and various bridges and roadways in the region. I know first-hand that asphalt fumes are nasty.
My work on the AK Pipeline project afforded me the opportunity to buy a home and property in Renton – the home I still live in over 39 years later. My home is now subject to the possibility of being within 500 feet of an asphalt recycling and hot mix plant, its noise and its toxic emissions.
As a former professional developer, my preference would be for the County to turn the site into a Park & Ride, serving the growing communities of Maple Valley, Black Diamond, Enumclaw, and Covington. This would: 1) make the County look like heroes concerned about infrastructure, the environment, and KCo’s wild spaces; 2) help alleviate traffic; 3) eliminate a serious health risk for very nearby residents; and 4) Prevent toxic runoff affecting Cedar River, which flows into Lake Washington, and nearby reserve wells.
I am STRONGLY opposed to the plant being relocated to WITHIN 500 FEET OF ANY HOME for a number of evidence-based reasons:
- Safety: It is my understanding that there are no direct water, sewer or gas lines to the site and that Lakeside Industries will store natural gas, liquid gas and diesel in tanks on the site. I am concerned about safety and fire suppression. The nearest fire hydrant to the property is at the intersection of 196th/SE 162nd, approximately 1/4 mile away.
- Landslides: Landslides frequently occur along SR 169, especially due south of the SR 169/196th intersection. The new industrial use, which is not permitted on the site (Policy R-513), will cause more instability, especially coupled with the mines in the surrounding hillside. In the 39 years that I have lived in my home, I have seen part of the hill above the old County Shops site wash down, flood the site, and close SR169.
- Legality: Lakeside Industries is attempting to put an asphalt plant 150′ from the Cedar River on a parcel that is not zoned for this, per the King County Comprehensive Plan. Simply put, what they are trying to do is illegal.
- Where’s the Environmental Impact Study? I was a developer 20 years ago and worked on a project for 20 residential units in Maple Valley. I had to do an EIS for a property that was already zoned for residential and contained no sensitive areas. How can a commercial site get by without one, let alone one within 150′ of a salmon habitat?
- A Threat to Wildlife: Speaking of salmon, populations are in decline, and therefore orca populations are also in decline. Bald eagles nest in this area. Bear prowl this area routinely. Deer, raccoons, coyote and ravens consider Maple Valley Heights their home. If elected officials (including Governor Inslee) really wanted to protect this region’s native salmon population, they would speak out against this plant, but they’re staying mum.
- Increased Traffic: If Lakeside Industries has their way, traffic along SR169 is about to get much worse. They have proposed adding ~500 new trucks PER DAY (double-trailers, filled with hot-smelly-toxic-liquid asphalt), the majority of which would be on the road during PEAK COMMUTE TIMES. Picture it… all those new trucks on the road, dropping tar and asphalt onto the already maxed out SR169 (which will be picked up on cars), kicking up rocks that damage windshields, going in and out of a site close to a blind curve on a busy road, with cars traveling at speeds up to 60 mph. And can you imagine the smell? Hundreds daily. Picture it. Smell it. Scrape it off your car each week.
- Contaminated Drinking Water: King County Water District 90 has expressed a strong objection to this plan. This proposed plant lies in their well recharge areas along the Cedar River. When there are spills (not if – but when) toxins are going to seep into the ground and contaminate our water table. We are going to lose some wells. KCWD90 will have to buy clean water from other sources, and those costs will be passed on to consumers by way of higher water bills. Additionally, the Cedar River feeds into Lake Washington. All toxins affecting the Cedar River will also impact Lake Washington.
- Toxicity: The Federal EPA is very clear that asphalt plants produce known toxins and carcinogens, especially those that grind and process reclaimed asphalt like this proposed plant. Even with cutting edge, modern equipment, toxic solid-particle emissions will be released into the air for nearby residents, commuters, and all users of the Cedar River Trail to ingest. Per the EPA: “Asphalt processing and asphalt roofing manufacturing facilities are major sources of hazardous air pollutants such as formaldehyde, hexane, phenol, polycyclic organic matter, and toluene. Exposure to these air toxins may cause cancer, central nervous system problems, liver damage, respiratory problems, and skin irritation.
To summarize, allowing Lakeside Industries to build an asphalt plant at the old County Shops site on SR 169 will not only add ~500 dump trucks PER DAY (~200,000 each year) into the already heavy traffic flow, but will also: impact water quality for hundreds of thousands of residents throughout the County; adversely affect salmon habitat and wildlife in the area and the region’s orca population; create additional safety hazards; and subject nearby families and all Cedar River Trail users to the acute effects of exposure to toxins created by grinding recycled asphalt and asphalt fumes from hot mix.
The basic point: This plant does not belong within a stone’s throw of the Cedar River in one direction and residential homes in the other.