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He denied there is a "Phase II" that would cut deep into the giant sandbar as claimed by Save Steep Mountain.
At the air-quality division, Jay Morris says he wonders if dust problems are inevitable — even with the best-possible controls at the pit and a good corporate citizen like Geneva. Last month, his team issued a "compliance letter" to Geneva after blowing-dust complaints from the weekend Scarlett Voight was born.
Mining at Point of the Mountain
Some interesting data about mining operations and the surrounding communities:
In the past 20 years, the population in surrounding communities has more than quadrupled, from 38,056 in 1990 to 164,742 in 2011, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. That includes the populations of Alpine, Bluffdale, Draper, Highland, Lehi and Riverton.
Geneva Rock owns about 872 acres at Point of the Mountain. About 288 acres of that is currently used for mining.
Around 1,200 dump trucks carrying products produced at the mine leave the site daily. Each carries about 30 tons.
Mining has been going on at Point of the Mountain for at least a half century. Geneva’s mining permits through the Utah Division of Oil, Gas and Mining are valid for another 70 years.
In 2008, the Utah Division of Air Quality assessed Geneva Rock $1,650,396 in penalties, $300,000 in cash and $1.3 million for environmental improvements after air pollution violations. It was the largest penalty the agency’s assessed in its 20 years.
"You can’t live next to a gravel pit and not have dust," he said. "Even if they’re in compliance 100 percent of the time, there’s going to be dust."
His inspectors believe that the current shape of the mine is acting like a chimney, fueling winds that start out at 5 mph to 10 mph at the bottom to speeds up to 60 mph at the top.
In addition, there are roughly two dozen mines with air-quality permits on the Wasatch Front, noted Morris. And some dust blows in from western and southern deserts.
"It puts us in an uncomfortable situation," Morris said.
Especially since dust is the single biggest source of public complaints to the agency.
The Voights are not alone in their concerns about the future of mining at Point of the Mountain. More than 6,000 have signed onto the Save Steep Mountain online petition. In addition, with Salt Lake County and Draper having investments to protect, they also have been involved in looking for a way to address the problem — maybe with a land swap.
"Legally, we can’t do anything about" the dust pollution, said Salt Lake County’s Jensen. "It’s difficult to balance those uses."
Draper Mayor Darrell Smith noted that his community’s open-space purchase is intended to protect it from development. A former member of the Utah Air Quality Board, he also underscored the importance of addressing the dust problem.
"That’s our air," he said.
Balancing a healthy economy with healthy air is important, Smith added.
"They’ve done a lot of good things," he said of Geneva. "Right now, I think it’s a good working relationship, and everyone wants a win-win."
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