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Raising a stink: Asphalt plant odor draws ire

By Tony Boom
Mail Tribune

Nearby neighbors are unhappy with emissions and noise from an asphalt batch plant, while the plant's owner says he's fixed problems that caused it to violate state standards last year.

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Mountain View Paving, along Bear Creek just east of city limits, faces community scrutiny over air quality concerns at the same time it has applied to Jackson County for permits to continue operations. The issues are handled separately by different government agencies.

Mountain View exceeded emissions standards for carbon monoxide and nitrogen oxides in tests conducted for the Oregon Department of Environmental Quality in August.

"We've got it fixed — it was a little plugged up," said Mountain View owner Paul Meyer.

A state official downplayed the emissions violations.

"This is not an uncommon situation," said Wayne Kauzlarich, natural resources specialist with the DEQ's Medford office. "It's a verification issue that the equipment is running appropriately, and if not, that the steps are taken to ensure compliance."

But neighbors say the plant's operation is an ongoing aggravation for them. Lois Schmidt, who lives in Mountain View Estates on the west side of the creek, about 300 yards from the plant, says she, her husband and other residents of the retirement community are bothered by the operation.

"We're right on the creek. The smell and the noise comes right across at us. I'm not sure if it's toxic or not," said Schmidt. "It has grown immensely. They are doing more work and expanding rapidly."

Residents living elsewhere in Talent also complained about the odors during a public comment period before the City Council on Feb. 6.

The council on Wednesday approved a letter to be sent to Jackson County, detailing its concerns and asking the county to attach conditions to the plant's continued operation. The conditions it seeks include ensuring the operation meets flood plain rules, preventing any expansion of the business, and limiting its hours of operation to between 7 a.m. and 9 p.m.

If the residents are to have any success in limiting or blocking the plant's operation, it appears it will have to come from the county rather than the state.

Mountain View Paving has had a permit from the county to operate at the site since 2001. But its existing operation does not comply with county regulations, and the firm has applied for the nonconforming use permits.

Mountain View has also applied to develop a more permanent facility on the site. The city of Talent contends in its letter that the site should be treated as a grandfathered use, which would not allow for any expansion on the property.

Jackson County must render a decision on the applications by May 24. County staff will issue a ruling on the matter with enough time to allow for a required 12-day appeal period and for a hearings officer to take comments and render a decision by the deadline date, according to county Development Director Kelly Madding.

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