Neighbors watch hard-rock blast

ENUMCLAW _ In an effort to address concerns about
hard-rock blasting at the Snoqualmie Sand and Gravel pit, residents living next to
the gravel operation and county officials took a bus trip Nov. 3 to a quarry
in Enumclaw to see firsthand how the rock is mined.

  • Thursday, October 2, 2008 5:28pm
  • News
Neighbors watch hard-rock blast

ENUMCLAW _ In an effort to address concerns about

hard-rock blasting at the Snoqualmie Sand and Gravel pit, residents living next to

the gravel operation and county officials took a bus trip Nov. 3 to a quarry

in Enumclaw to see firsthand how the rock is mined.

Representatives from Glacier Northwest — the company that

owns the Snoqualmie gravel pit — Subterra Inc., Associated Earth Sciences

and Weyerhaeuser also attended the demonstration. Subterra and

Associated Earth Sciences are engineering firms hired by Glacier Northwest.

The event was sponsored by Glacier officials, who hoped

neighbors would see that blasting impacts are minimal to the surrounding

area, thereby easing some residents’ apprehension about the company’s plans

to blast at the Snoqualmie gravel pit.

“It was an educational thing to educate and answer questions,”

said Ken Johnston, plant superintendent at the Snoqualmie pit.

Glacier Northwest, a major state supplier of sand, gravel and

landscaping rock, plans to blast hard rock at its 270-acre site, located next

to Weyerhaeuser off 396th Drive Southeast in Snoqualmie.

Currently, the county is reviewing a proposal to revise Glacier’s

permit to not only include blasting up to three times per week, but also to

increase the pit’s hours to four more per day and extend the operation’s life

beyond the year 2050.

Homeowners whose property lines are 300 feet to a few miles from

the gravel pit, which has existed for decades, have expressed concern

over the proposal. They’ve listed noise, vibration, extra truck traffic, stray

rocks, damage to underlying aquifers and decreasing property values as

possible impacts on their neighborhood and properties if the plan is approved.

But Glacier officials stress that when done correctly, blasting has

very little vibration and noise impacts.

Neighbor Neil Dubey, whose property is one of the closest

to Snoqualmie Sand and Gravel, said the blasting demonstration in

Enumclaw didn’t have much of an impact on him.

“It was kind of exciting to see it,” he said. “It didn’t really bother me.”

Dubey said he’s not upset about Glacier’s plans, adding that as a

lifelong Valley resident, the logging trains that used to run through town

were much louder than a blast could ever be.

However, neighbor Laura Kelley said the demonstration reinforced

her concerns and gave her little hope that the project would not have an

affect on her property.

“To me it’s very discouraging,” she said, explaining that she feels the

noise from the blast and the warning horns could be dangerous when

riding horses nearby.

“I could feel it. It gave me a shake, and I could feel the air blast,”

said neighbor Diane Brace, who stood closer to the blast so she could

feel the vibration. “What concerns me is that I could feel the air blast and

I’m worried that it could bounce off the clouds on a cloudy day and

project back on people and buildings.”

Air blasts are pockets of air forced from the blasting area, much like

the rush of air people feel when a door is slammed.

Glacier General Manager Ron Summers said air blasts pose no

danger and explained that the Enumclaw blast was 10 to 20 percent larger

than what will be done at the Snoqualmie site.

The blast lasted less than two seconds and resulted in

approximately 10,000 tons of large rock. The vibration from the blast registered

lower than the state requires.

Maury Hamerly is a Snoqualmie Sand and Gravel neighbor who

also works for the company. He performs maintenance for the operation’s

rock crushers and other machines.

“It wasn’t bad. I thought it would be worse,” he said.

“I’ve worked for a lot of companies, and Glacier really tries to

take care of noise problems,” he explained. “They really listen, and I

should know.”

Hamerly said the company has taken steps to reduce noise at the

site, adding that he helped install sound barriers around the operation’s

rock crushers. In addition, a warning horn is scheduled to be moved because

it’s too high in the air, and trucks with loud engines are not used anymore.

Metropolitan King County Councilman David Irons Jr. has been

around blasts before while working on the Alaska pipeline after college, and

he said the blast was about what he expected.

Yet he is against implementing a blasting program in Snoqualmie

because of the proximity of homes to the operation.

“There is 50 years’-worth of gravel in there, so mine that,” he said of

the existing operation. “I’m not convinced that it’s necessary at this point in time.”

He added that since the Enumclaw quarry produces large rock

already, perhaps Glacier could just use rock from there.

Several residents suggested that the gravel company created a

gentler blast than what will be done at Snoqualmie, but Glacier

representatives denied such an action.

“We’re in business all over King County,” Summers explained.

“Yes, we could have made it go that way, but we didn’t. You’re only as good

as your word and we work off reputation.”

However a few neighbors are still wary.

“I imagine they presented us with the best-case scenario,” Brace said.

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