Asphalt-plant neighbors U-turn county commissioner's citizen meeting

Citizens detoured Larimer County Commissioner Lew Gaiter’s monthly public meeting in Wellington on June 5, which was originally slated for a presentation about county natural resources, and U-turned the agenda to discuss impacts of an asphalt plant located north of Fort Collins.

The Taft Asphalt Plant opened at 1800 N. Taft Hill Road, in 2010. It was acquired by Martin Marietta Materials in 2011, and has since sparked dissatisfaction among many of the citizens that live nearby, who say the plant has negative effects on the community.

Citizens living near the plant fear that the industrial operation could cause serious health issues for the nearby residents, particularly the students attending Lincoln Middle School 2 miles down the road.

“It’s a health issue for kids out there on the playground, because its on the same level as the plant,” said Mona Thornton, a Fort Collins resident. “We are a little frustrated with the school district for not taking a stance.”

Others primarily found issue with the fact that the neighborhood had no input when the plant was first brought in.

“The fact that it was brought in without people being notified is the biggest issue,” Fort Collins resident Karen Hare said. “We have over 7,000 people in north Fort Collins that are affected by this, and we are trying to represent them.”

Several citizens remarked that since the plant is portable, it should simply be moved a few miles away to minimize health impacts.

Two representatives from Martin Marietta who attended the meeting said the plant is in its current location because the aggregate materials are mined nearby, and thus it would not make sense to move it.

“We’ve been trying to be a good neighbor,” said one of the representatives. “We’ve done everything we can to make this plant as clean as it is.”

Several citizens questioned the fact that there have not been adequate studies done on the environmental and health impacts of the plant.

The Martin Marietta representatives told citizens that the plant is currently waiting for a permit from the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment, after which they will be legally required to conduct studies of the emissions and environmental effects of the plant over the next six months.

Some of the residents were focused on questioning Gaiter about why the commissioners have not taken a stance against this plant and have not worked to find a solution.

Gaiter said once the plant’s permit is issued there will be a 30-day comment period, during which he said the commissioners will develop a written recommendation to send to the state regarding what to do to limit or not limit the plant’s operations.

According to Gaiter, the commissioners plan on using the results of a study conducted by the Larimer County Environmental and Science Advisory Board to determine their recommendation. The study will examine the plant’s level of toxins produced, emissions, health issues and community effects.

Until this permit is issued and the Environmental and Science Advisory Board has conducted their study, Gaiter said he is reluctant to take a stand on either side of the issue.

“We don’t have a way to know whether the plant poses a health threat or not,” Gaiter said. “I am not qualified to make a judgement on that. We’re waiting to see what the experts tell us.”

Though not taking a stance, Gaiter said he was pleased with the turnout and lively discussion regarding the asphalt plant at the meeting.

“The discussion was productive, calm and rational,” Gaiter said. “There was a chance for both sides to communicate. (The residents) listened to the people from Martin, the people from Martin listened to them…this is why I do these meetings.”

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