Public hearing set for proposed gravel pit next to Frenchtown Schools

Public hearing set for proposed gravel pit next to Frenchtown Schools

Source: Missoulian
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Frenchtown School District superintendent Randy Cline has requested a public hearing about a proposed gravel pit next to the high school and junior high because he is concerned about water quality, pollution, noise, traffic and safety issues.

The hearing has been scheduled for July 25 from 6-9 p.m. at the high school.

“While we are aware that schools in Missoula County and throughout the state do have gravel pits within proximity of their schools, our situation is unique with our water supply,” Cline wrote in a letter to the Montana Department of Environmental Quality. “Many of these schools (and maybe most) are connected to a municipal water system.

“Frenchtown High School/Junior High is most likely the largest school site in the state (with over 700 students and staff) entirely dependent on on-site wells for clean drinking water, irrigation, the groundwater cooling system and fire suppression.”

Nelcon Inc., a contractor based in Kalispell, applied for the permit for an open-cut gravel pit that would last about 10 years and remove an estimated half-million cubic yards of material. According to the permit, Nelcon also has plans to install an asphalt patch plant on the site.

The proposed site is to the north of the school, immediately behind the high school track and football field, next to the school’s main water well and beside the 17 acres the district has for future building expansion.

“Obviously, FTSD still has other concerns with truck traffic, dust pollution, noise pollution, and other student safety issues that would impact the school,” Cline said. “The long-term reclamation plan for the open-cut mining site is of interest to FTSD also, as the pit would literally be next to 17 acres the school district has plans to develop for a school building in the future.”

There are also more than 10 homes within 1,000 feet of the permit area.

Cline believes that the application for a permit submitted to the DEQ by Nelcon is incomplete. He said that Nelcon’s permit does not identify the Frenchtown School District’s public water supply well, which is about 1,100 feet away from the proposed gravel pit.

“There is no alternative water source that is available to the school,” Cline said. “Any decrease in water quality will be detrimental to the Frenchtown High School/Junior High.”

Cline also noted that the permit listed the primary wind direction as “west.”

“How was this determined?” Cline asked the DEQ. “Was there a wind study conducted? Or is this simply anecdotal information?”

Cline also noted that any drop in water pressure from a well that the school uses for emergency fire suppression would take them out of compliance with the Frenchtown Fire Department.

Kristi Ponozzo, public policy director for the Montana Department of Environmental Quality, said that the agency has not yet responded to Cline’s letter, but it will compile it after the public hearing.

Sam Weyers, a vice president at Nelcon who submitted the application, did not return a phone call seeking comment on Monday.

Aug. 9 is the DEQ deadline to either issue a deficiency letter to Nelcon, determine whether an extended review is needed, or approve the permit.