We are writing regarding the proposed Hat Creek Construction asphalt plant in Delleker.
We have lived just outside of Portola since 1979. Our two adult children each own their own homes within Portola city limits. We have two grandchildren who attend school in Portola.
The effects of the construction and operation of the plant will produce a plethora of undesired effects. During the construction of the plant there will be the risk of soil erosion possibly entering the Feather River. Noises and vibrations because of construction will cause noise pollution to nearby residents and wildlife. During plant operation dust emissions will increase due to the transportation of raw materials for the asphalt. Odors and toxic particulate matter released into the air, even if unintentionally, may cause headaches, dizziness, nausea, skin rashes, eye and nose irritation, and other health risks for people downwind of the plant. As the prevailing wind blows west to east, that means the odors and pollution will blow directly into Portola. Traffic will be exponentially increased, causing delays and hazards for residents and existing businesses.
In recent years, the Northern Sierra Air Quality Management District has worked hard to improve the air quality in our area. Great progress has been made with the wood stove changeout program, chimney sweep vouchers, and other programs. The emissions from the operation of the asphalt plant would send us backward.
At the recent Portola City Council meeting, Mr. Thompson of Hat Creek Construction gave answers to residents’ concerns. Regarding PM2.5 particulates, Mr. Thompson stated that “technology advances of the last 10-20 years have come light years on compliance.” But just GOOGLE “asphalt plant closures” and you will find a myriad of news articles on asphalt plant closures across the United States due to their harmful effects on nearby residents. While there is a need for asphalt for paving, the production of such paving should be away from residential areas and precious natural resources such as the Feather River.
Mr. Thompson also said that “Asphalt is a non-hazardous project, meaning it is stable under ambient temperatures. If a tank ruptured or leaked, as soon as it cools it hardens and can be picked up.” Every asphalt plant says they have safeguards under control, until an accident happens. A 2021 article in Climate News states that
“Industry experts believe that changes in the makeup of asphalt and No. 6 fuel oil products stored in heated tanks across the country could pose a risk to workers and nearby communities.
Over the last decade, at least 17 heated storage tanks containing asphalt or No. 6 fuel oil, another heavy oil, have exploded at asphalt plants or terminals around the United States, according to news reports and filings from the Occupational Safety and Health Administration. In some cases, workers were injured or killed, and some explosions ignited fires in other, nearby tanks, causing whole neighborhoods to be evacuated.
More such explosions have probably gone unreported, said Kirsten Rosselot, a chemical engineer and the owner of Process Profiles, an environmental consulting firm, who has studied this type of tank… Neither OSHA nor the U.S. Chemical Safety and Hazard Investigation Board, an independent federal agency charged with looking into industrial chemical accidents, has conducted a systematic investigation of these explosions. Yet there is reason to believe that changes in the way asphalt and No. 6 fuel oil are processed and stored may be contributing to them, and that workers—and residents who live near the tanks—may be at risk.
For decades, companies and regulators assumed that emissions from asphalt and No. 6 fuel oil were negligible because of the heavy nature of the products. But over the last 30 years, companies have increasingly used additives to enhance the products, changing their makeup. Those additives have increased the vapor pressure inside the tanks making them more vulnerable to explosion, Rosselot and others said.
As a recent investigation by Climate News/UC Berkeley School of Journalism showed, those increased emissions are going largely unreported by companies. In some states, regulators do not require reporting, based on an incorrect assumption that there are no emissions to report. In states that do require that emissions be reported, companies estimate them, typically using a formula developed by the petroleum industry that is often wrong and leads to underestimates of vapor pressure and the levels of air pollution the tanks are emitting.”
When asked about the temporary three-year operation of the plant Mr. Thompson said, “There is not a possibility of continued operations of the Highway 70 project. It will be a minimum of three to three and a half years.” But what if a future project needing asphalt comes along, say paving the roads in a new subdivision near Gold Lake Highway in Graeagle?
The Cal Trans Highway 70 Project is needed. But let the winning contractor truck in the asphalt from wherever they have trucked it in for past and current projects in the area. The only entity that will profit from an asphalt plant in Delleker is Hat Creek Construction… if they are awarded the contract. Having an asphalt plant will allow HCC to lower their bid and increase their profits. It’s good business sense. But when an asphalt plant is in proximity of homes and a wild and scenic river, on a flood plain in an area that has been working to improve its air quality, it doesn’t show much common sense.
Jeanne and Kevin Tansey