Complaints over sand in Oroville; silica company asks for leeway

Mar 13, 2014 8:17 PM

Last week an Oroville man voiced concerns over excessive sand on the ground and dust flying in the air.

He said it came from a mine on Table Mountain, north of Oroville (1342 Cherokee Road).

The county saw that letter, contacted the mine operator, Mineral Resources, and is asked them to clean it up.

“We're primarily going to be looking at the road conditions,” said Pete Calarco, Assistant Director for Butte County Development. “And [ask] did they clean up the stuff that was there, has there been any additional material deposited, and ask for a compliance plan for them to cease that.”

A lot of the sand is going to Sierra Silica Resources on Georgia Pacific Way near downtown Oroville.

Sierra Silica, a relative newcomer to Oroville, buys that mine sand, processes it, and then sells it to their growing customer base.

“Those are customers that take sand every day from us, and they're products that Californians use day in and day out,” Sierra Silica General Manager Travis Hoiseth said.

But there's a problem. Hoiseth said there was faulty engineering in the original design of the plant.

“[The process] to basically suck up the dust that's released during truck loading wasn't working properly so you had big plumes of dust and if there was a significant breeze that would blow off the property,” said Robert McLaughlin, Assistant Air Pollution Control Officer for the Butte County Air Quality Management District. “So the concern is the impact to the public and neighboring businesses.”

That's why Sierra has asked for a permanent variance (which can last up to a year) while they upgrade the plant.

“That would allow us enough time here to address any issues or any perceived issues that we have,” Hoiseth said.

“There’s things that are within their reasonable control that they can do to reduce their emissions, and we think that's appropriate,” McLaughlin said. “And they've committed to doing that.”

As for the sand in the street, they're working on that too, renting a sweeper to control the sand tracked out.

“We want to be here for a long long time,” Hoiseth said. “So we want to make sure our neighbors are happy, our employees are happy, and we're doing all the things we can to achieve that.”

The Butte County Air Quality Management hearing board will hear Sierra Silica's request to be the exemption to the "dust fugitive" rule at 3pm Monday at the Oroville Council Chambers.


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