Gravel mine poses big problems

Letter to the Editor.

Larry Anderson’s Dec. 14 letter (“Gravel pit isn’t the problem”)

makes interesting observations on Valley demographics but totally ignores the

real issues that make the Weyerhaeuser/Cadman gravel mine a threat to

the quality of life for everyone in King County, regardless of where they

live or work.

First, of course, is the risk to the North Bend aquifer, the largest

untapped water supply in the region. The gravel-mining industry has a

terrible record for puncturing and contaminating both groundwater and

surface-water resources. In October of 1993, Cadman breached the High Rock

aquifer at its operation near Monroe. That incident displaced some 25,000

yards of silt, sand and gravel, immediately damaged 13 wells and three

springs, and resulted in the permanent reduction of underground water levels in

an area of over 160 acres.

The 1996 environmental impact statement for the Cadman Black

Diamond Mine Expansion documents several eyewitness accounts of

hazardous waste dumping and unsafe operation at the Green Valley Road site.

The Cadman proposal for North Bend calls for onsite storage of tens of

thousands of gallons of propane and diesel fuel in the area of Truck Town;

literally across the street from the future middle school.

A gradual leak in any of these or other storage tanks could pollute

the soil and underground water supplies for generations to come. Worse, a

catastrophic explosion or fire could destroy dozens of nearby homes

and businesses , killing or injuring hundreds of people. Alarmist

nimbyism? Probably. But why run the risk?

The truth is Washington is gravel-rich; sand and gravel can be

profitably extracted from hundreds of places in the Northwest. The proposed

North Bend site just happens to be the most profitable location, given its

proximity to I-90 and Weyerhaeuser’s own major development projects

like Snoqualmie Ridge.

Personally, I’m not willing to sacrifice the quality of our water and

air, nor endanger the lives and property of my family to increase the profit

margin for Weyerhaeuser and Cadman stockholders.

The North Bend gravel mine isn’t about the inexorable demands

of growth, nor is it about a win-win land swap benefitting King County

decades in the future. It’s about corporate greed at the expense — if we’re lucky —

of the quality of life of a few thousand families in the North Bend area. If

we are unlucky, the consequences could be much worse, with loss of water

supplies impacting families as far away as Seattle and Tacoma.

David Billick

North Bend