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Gravel Pit Request Would Mean Conservation Area — And More Air Pollution

A construction-products company is dusting off a request to expand its gravel-mining operation at the Point of the Mountain, raising concerns that the expansion could add more air pollution at a popular recreation spot and fast-growing communities nearby.

For the second time in three years, Geneva Rock wants the City of Draper to rezone acreage next to the gravel pit. This time the company is also proposing to conserve 78 acres near the Salt Lake County flight park, a favorite hang-gliding and paragliding venue.

Jonny Vasic, executive director of the Utah Physicians for a Healthy Environment, said monitoring and research shows the gravel pit continues to poison the air.


“There is still massive amounts of dust coming off of the gravel pit,” he said. “And, in reality, we know there is no safe level of pollution.”


Geneva disputes the idea the dust is harmful, but the doctors’ group is organizing opposition to Geneva Rock’s rezone request.


“Utah County and Salt Lake County should be very alarmed by this, because it will mean another generation of pollution coming off of that mine,” Vasic said.


In 2008, the state Division of Air Quality assessed Geneva Rock Products Inc. penalties of $1.7 million — one of the largest environmental ever assessed in the state — for excess pollution at Point of the Mountain. The company was required to spend more than $1.3 million upgrading equipment and improving its processes. More recently, it added cleaner vehicles to its fleet.


But, in a letterthis summer to Draper City, the Utah Physicians for a Healthy Environment said the emissions from the trucks and the dusty operations at Point of the Mountain are pumping toxic heavy metals like uranium and arsenic into the air, as well as hazardous silica. And residents of the most populated counties of the state are forced to breathe that polluted air.

The doctors' group and some area residents still oppose the company's rezoning application despite a plan to designate a conservation area in roughly half of the acreage the company wants rezoned. Geneva Rock had not responded to a call for comment before this story went to air.

Draper City Council will weigh its decision on the rezoning proposal after a public hearing 6 p.m., Wednesday, at City Hall, 1020 East Pioneer Road.

Judy Fahys has reported in Utah for two decades, covering politics, government and business before taking on environmental issues. She loves covering Utah, where petroleum-pipeline spills, the nation’s radioactive legacy and other types of pollution provide endless fodder for stories. Previously, she worked for the Salt Lake Tribune in Utah, and reported on the nation’s capital for States News Service and the Scripps League newspaper chain. She is a longtime member of the Society of Environmental Journalists and Investigative Reporters and Editors. She also spent an academic year as a research fellow in the Knight Science Journalism program at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. In her spare time, she enjoys being out in the environment, especially hiking, gardening and watercolor painting.
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