A concrete-mixing plant slated to begin operations next week is stirring up air-quality and health concerns from people in some east-side neighborhoods.
The Utah Department of Transportation plans to commence operations at the plant, near 4000 South and Wasatch Boulevard next Monday, but residents of the Olympus Cove and Millcreek neighborhoods say they will seek an injunction against the plant if officials do not meet their demands including improved air monitoring and the ability to pull the plug on operations if residents feel they are unsafe.
"This isn't radical environmentalism; this is reasonable concern," said Brian Moench, an east-side doctor who serves as the president of Utah Physicians for a Healthy Environment.
The temporary plant will provide concrete for roads and bridges in the area, but Moench said it could also put harmful materials, such as lead, mercury and arsenic, into the air.
Steve Pohlman, one of the leaders in fighting the plant, said idling trucks will also spew diesel fumes into the residential area, which could be harmful to the children at a handful of nearby schools.
UDOT spokesman Adan Carrillo said he believes the air will remain safe in the area during the plant's operation. The permit for the plant, including an OK from the Division of Air Quality, has been in place for nearly two years, he said.
"We're just as concerned as (the neighbors) are," Carrillo said. "We got all the permits from the Division of Air Quality. We don't just install these plants where we please. If standards were not met, that plant would not be there."
During a community meeting Monday, neighbors said they were upset UDOT officials did not inform them of their intentions concerning the plant. Pohlman said air-quality concerns must be satisfied before mixing can begin.
After meeting with state transportation officials Monday, Pohlman and Moench said they're optimistic an agreement can be reached, but so far nothing has been put into writing.
UDOT previously used a location in South Jordan for its concrete mixing. There, residents were given some power to shut down operations if safety concerns were not addressed.
Among other things, east-side residents are asking for that same agreement. The South Jordan deal, however, was brokered because the plant was built on city property, Carrillo said. With the Wasatch Boulevard plant operating on UDOT property, east-side residents might not have that same leverage.
Residents also said they want improved air-quality monitoring for the plant and a promise that UDOT won't turn Wasatch Boulevard into a permanent site.
UDOT officials plan to start production Monday and shut down the operation three months later. Next summer, the plant would again be operative for about three months before being closed permanently, Carrillo said.
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