Meeting fails to allay public concerns over the Westside Gravel Pit

Members of the public who attended a public meeting on Monday evening about the proposed Westside Gravel Pit were deeply skeptical about the plan and the process that led up to it. George Hopkins (left) challenges Interoute Construction Ltd. official Erwin Spletzer regarding the dangers of crystalline silica dust during Monday evening's public meeting about the proposed expansion of the Westside gravel pit. David F. Rooney photo

By David F. Rooney

Members of the public who attended a public meeting on Monday evening about the proposed Westside Gravel Pit were deeply skeptical about the plan and the process that led up to it.

“The whole process is flawed,” said Francis Maltby.

He said Interoute Construction’s decision not to include a map with its April newspaper ad soliciting public comment about its proposal to expand the pit in April almost ensured that local homeowners might not notice it when they scanned the paper.

“You need to get out there ahead of the game before you do anything on the ground,” Maltby told Interoute spokesman Erwin Spletzer who replied that the company did what it was legally required to do and that he personally had not been involved in the public-notification project.

Other local residents at the meeting were critical of the so-called “rehabilitation” of the 17.2 hectares slated for strip-mining in this phase of the project.

Spletzer said the company would rehabilitate the ground once it has been looted of gravel, saying it would be re-seeded with native plants. However, not until he was pressed did he admit that this so-called rehabilitation would not include filling in the six-metre-deep pits that will be left behind by the extraction process.

A major issue for many residents in Columbia Park, which is just 350 metres away from the pit, is dust. George Hopkins challenged Spletzer on the dust issue and demanded to know what Interoute would do about crystalline silica dust, a suspected carcinogen. Click here to read Part 1 and Part 2 of a document he put together regarding this substance.

Spletzer said rock test Interoute performed at the site showed that there “were no measurable quantities of crystalline silica.” However, he did not have any date to show that and the results of the tests he said were performed were not sent to the provincial inspector of mines, Bruce Milligan.

Milligan was at the meeting. He is the provincial official who will decide whether the proposed gravel mine will be approval.

Spletzer also said the company is committed to preventing dust and noise from bothering Revelstokians.

“We will abide by that commitment,” he said. “A company is only as good as its employees and out employees are committed.”

Interoute employees were, in fact, very much in attendance at the meeting.

But Spletzer’s commitment didn’t mean much to Big Eddy resident Marge Skrypnyk who was visibly angry about a small gravel extraction operation in that part of the city which she said is consistently noisy and dusty.

“There’s no dust control,” she said. “There’s no noise control.”

However Skrypnyk’s open complaints were shut down by City Planner John Guenther who suggested that she speak privately about her complaints in order to give other people an opportunity to speak.

Spletzer also told the audience that Interoute is limiting its hours at the pit to 7 am – 5 pm Monday through Friday. he had made that same commitment to City Council a few weeks ago and not long afterwards company workers and trucks were photographed hard at work on a Saturday by gravel pit opponent Stuart Andrews.

Andrews asked Spletzer if it was true that Interoute had alternative gravel mining operation that it could use other than the Westside Road operation. Spletzer said that was true but said the gravel from the three-hectare area it has a permit to occupy near the Jordan River is inferior to the gravel along the Columbia.

The gravel pit issue will surface again at City Council in about two weeks time.

You can read more about the pit and see aerial photos of it by clicking here.