UPHE has worked for several years on educating the public on the dangers fugitive dust from Geneva Rock, Kennecott and all our gravel pits. Fugitive dust is composed of harmful particulate matter and often heavy metals including uranium and arsenic. Crystalline silica present in this dust can cause chronic, irreversible lung disease and lead to lung cancer. We need consistent air quality monitoring along the fence lines of these gravel, rock and sand mining operations.
For KUTV’s story on Draper resident’s appealing the decision to allow Geneva mining to continue their operations, click here.
Background Information and Update from our Community Partners on Geneva Rock
In the early 2000’s Geneva Rock was told by the Division of Oil Gas and Mining (DOGM) that they had escalated their practices moving from sand and gravel collection to hard rock mining without the proper state reclamation contract. A reclamation contract has been required for mining activity since before Draper City was incorporated, which was never filed. They filed the Notice of Intent and reclamation in 2009 after the fact and without the proper conditional use permit from Draper City.
In 2006, when the economy boomed and orders exceeded their approved permitted capacity, they ignored the rules again. Geneva had to pay the state $1.7 million in fines for air quality violations. The report cited several permit breaches at other Geneva sites as well. Unfortunately, staff resources makes it difficult for the Air Quality Board to check on Geneva Rock and this may mean that they will continue to do business while ignoring the rules.
Last November, angry residents worked with Draper City to shut down a request by Geneva Rock to double their operations. Research by the residents revealed that Geneva had already mined a 40 acre square without permission. The response from Geneva was that area had been “grandfathered in.” Another 3 acre parcel, the Radio Tower Mountain, outside the approved mining area, had also been illegally mined despite being zoned agricultural. Geneva admitted going beyond their approved area and paid a penalty fine to DOGM for their error.
Early this year it was reported to the Division of Oil Gas and Mining (DOGM), that Geneva had escalated their practices and contravened zoned borders without approval. Geneva had to pay a fine from DOGM for going over the line several acres on Radio Tower Mountain. Another determination is still being argued for a larger improperly zoned area that Geneva has mined with claims they were “grandfathered in” and their escalation to hard rock mining without a conditional use permit.
Draper City has approved expansion of activities including blasting without proper zoning permit process, but residents are appealing. This fall Geneva Rock will ask to expand their operations into the mountains above the pit. Carcinogenic silica dust, laden with heavy metals, gets airborne at this windy gap in the valley, traveling for miles along the Wasatch Front affecting over 2 million residents.
New research by Draper residents now raises questions about the legality of the entire Geneva Rock operation. Geneva sent a 170 page document to Draper City asking to confirm their legal rights and retroactively approve what they were already doing. This document tries to answer a 2008 request from the Division of Oil Gas and Mining on Geneva “zoning issues” with the city, specifically expanding into new areas not zoned for mining and expanded use. The question of expanded use covers the entire open pit mine which is now conducting mining instead of just sand and gravel collection. The difference is defined by DOGM, being collecting from the surface versus using explosives to mine consolidated material and bedrock. This activity requires a conditional use permit from Draper City, something Geneva has never been granted. This time the answer from Geneva was “no city official ever told us we could not mine our entire property.” There’s a big difference between not hearing “no” and obtaining the proper legal permission.
You can’t miss it! Point of the Mountain at the south end of the valley is one of the ugliest scars in Utah. And the Geneva Rock rock mining operation continues to create dust clouds that travel across the Salt Lake and Utah county valleys. UPHE has been working on this issue for two years in order to educate the public on the dangers of this dust. But the issue recently gained notoriety when Geneva applied for permit from Draper City to expand their operations by 189 acres. Fortunately widespread citizen protest throughout Draper, with the help of UPHE, has resulted in Geneva pulling their expansion permit application.
But the issue is far from over. Continual dust from Geneva’s operations are potentially some of the most dangerous dust particles in our airshed in terms of negatively affecting lung function. Unfortunately, since there are no air monitors in the area and the state doesn’t require them, no one knows exactly what is contained in this huge mountain removal project. Draper citizens formally requested the Utah Division of Air Quality to install air monitors within the vicinity of Point of Mountain in order to determine the make up of this dust. You can help. Contact UDAQ Director Bryce Bird (firstname.lastname@example.org) and ask him to consider installing air monitors near this operation so local and state officials and residents can better understand more accurately the health threat from Geneva’s operations, and what needs to be done to eliminate that risk.