A new business just off the Preston-Fall City Road has been gradually, but not quietly, ramping up its operations since last August. The Raging River Quarry was ordered to stop operations two weeks ago, due to noise complaints.
The quarry, located on 50 acres, but currently operating only on 25 acres west of Preston-Fall City Road, has been a concern for members of the Raging River Conservation Group since they formed last fall.
However, in the past two months, staff at the King County Department of Permitting and Environmental Review (DPER) reported receiving noise complaints from the 50-some homes within a quarter-mile of the active site.
“It’s just in the last month that they’ve produced enough product to have trucks come in,” explained Fred White, a DPER inspector overseeing the quarry site.
The maximum limit of noise the quarry is permitted to produce in regular operations is 57 decibels (dBa), which White said “is a tough standard.”
It’s not the toughest standard in the county, though, where about half of the 25 mines and quarries located here are operating.
The Raging River Quarry rate is considered as industrial property, sending noise to rural property. The county has set lower maximum noise limits for commercial, residential and rural properties sending to rural property.
All limits are measured at the receiving property line.
Operations at the quarry “were pretty steadily between 64 and 70 dBa,” White said.
Blasting maximum levels are based on the movement of ground and air and DPER project manager Randy Sanden noted the quarry hasn’t had any blasts that surpassed its allowed thresholds.
Because of noise complaints about the regular operations and as a result of a routine inspection, White said, “We wrote them a letter telling them to cease operations until they can demonstrate that they can meet that standard.”
The order called for a partial stop, Sanden explained, since the quarry staff would need to operate the machinery to test noise levels after it was retrofitted to be quieter.
As of June 10, White said the quarry staff had made some modifications to machinery and were discussing an enclosure for the gravel crusher, by far the loudest piece of equipment.
The stop order will be “provisionally lifted” periodically, White said, “to allow them to do limited sampling,” but not for regular operations.
Craig Edwards, a member of the Raging River Conservation Group board, was disappointed to see the quarry back up and running so quickly, but he’s more concerned that quarry owner John Priebe has submitted an application to expand quarry operations into the rest of the property, about 25 acres.
“I’m pretty sure if this were a brand new request, it would never get permitted,” Edwards said, noting that the last time the quarry was active, in the ’80s, there weren’t as many homes in the area and environmental protection requirements have increased.
As part of the existing quarry, which has renewed its permit every year whether or not it was operating, the expansion permit application is now under review, White said.
He also noted that all extracting operations in the county undergo periodic inspections in which “every single element of operations is reviewed…. and in those areas where the code has changed, periodic review gives us the authority to bring them up to that standard, if practical.”
DPER is taking public comments on the expansion application, although the required public comment period has ended.
“I’m receiving comments every day,” White said. “We’ve told people that we’ll accept comments right up until the day we make the permit decision.”
That day is still a long way off, requiring that several steps be completed first. A big milestone for the conservation group will be the DPER decision, expected late this summer, on whether the expansion will require a full environmental impact statement (EIS), listing the significant environmental impacts of the quarry, along with alternatives and measures to mitigate the impact.
A full study would take weeks to complete, followed a 30-day public comment period, after which a final EIS is issued for review by the permitting authorities.
Edwards said the conservation group is hoping that an EIS is required and following the review, the land permit is denied.
The property slopes steeply to the Raging River, which is the spawning ground for three species of salmon, Edwards said.
“It’s a sensitive area with slide and erosion areas and it’s near a seismic fault,” he said.
Instead of a mining operation, Edwards said the group, which has the goal of protecting and improving the Raging River and its watershed, hope to see the area used for public recreational benefit.