Gravel pit ‘would ruin this little town’ neighbors say
Scott and Darlene Erickson live in a peaceful area off of County Road 87 in Forada — and they want to keep it that way.
The Ericksons are among numerous Forada residents who are concerned about the ramifications of a potential gravel pit in the area. The placement of the pit would be close to residential areas, just 138 feet from the Erickson's home.
"It's not that I'm anti-gravel pit," said Scott, who is a Forada city council member. "I understand that there's a need for gravel. But this is too close to town. It's going to ruin this little town."
Scott and Darlene, along with other concerned residents of Forada, attended a meeting Wednesday, Sept. 20, at the Forada City Hall, which drew more than 60 attendees. Also present were representatives from the city of Forada, Hudson Township and Douglas County Land and Resource Management.
The details of the proposed gravel pit were discussed, with director of Douglas County Land and Resource Management Dave Rush answering many questions.
The proposal for the gravel pit was submitted by Minnerath Investments LLC, owned by Joe Minnerath, who also owns road contractor Central Specialties Inc. It states that the company would mine the agricultural land for gravel.
The proposed 39.9-acre site for the gravel pit is in Hudson Township, next to the city of Forada. An entrance and exit would be built on County Road 4 at the north end of the site. It would operate from 6:30 a.m. to 7:30 p.m. Monday through Saturday from April through November, and trucks would be making an average of 10 trips to the gravel pit per hour.
Among the major concerns for residents was the noise such an operation would create. According to Rush, noise is one of the more difficult aspects to set parameters for.
"Noise can be measured, but people's perception of noise and how it impacts them is very different," Rush said. "Yes, it is possible to measure noise, but if the county were to establish certain decibel levels of noise, that still may not be enough of a reduction for everybody."
Another concern residents have is the potential of exposure to dust that contains crystalline silica, a naturally occurring material that can become airborne in sand and gravel mining.
According to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, breathing in the dust can cause scar tissue on the lungs, a condition called silicosis. Silicosis can make it more difficult for the lungs to take in oxygen. There is no cure for this condition, and in some cases it is fatal.
"We have a grandson already with breathing problems," Darlene said. "I know what it's like when you have young kids in the hospital with breathing issues."
Other concerns from residents include heavy traffic, property values, the effects on wells and the safety of children.
"If there's a gravel pit, kids are going to play in it," said Doug Brackin, a Forada resident. "This one's going to have water in it and there's going to be kids who maybe drown."
Minnerath acknowledged Forada residents' concerns, and said that with time a more detailed plan will be released.
"We respect the concerns of the Forada community surrounding this project," Minnerath said. "The details of our project will be more fully set forth once we apply for a conditional use permit from Douglas County. That permit process will require the disclosure of many project details, specifications and public hearings to receive public comment and to assess how compatible our project is with the surrounding land uses and with the county's land use plan."
After the gravel is used up, the company indicates it wants to develop the property, but it's not clear when that would happen.
Residents with comments to make regarding the potential site are asked to mail or email a letter to Douglas County Land and Resource Management outlining their reasons for being in support of or against the operation. The deadline for comments is Friday, Sept. 29.
"We're looking for what's called substantive comments," Rush explained. "Comments like, 'I don't want it' or 'I don't like it' or 'It's a bad idea,' those comments don't have any substance to them. They don't give us any additional information on which to base a decision. ... A substantive comment is one we can respond to in one way or another."