As the new executive director for Utah Physicians for a Healthy Environment, I find myself thinking about the future of Salt Lake City and our state with regards to the healthy environment I assume we would all like to live in. Which brings me to the proposed expansion and rezoning of the Geneva Rock gravel mine located at the Point of the Mountain.
Having grown up in Salt Lake, we are all familiar with the dust clouds and the wind that never seem to stop. Geneva Rock’s mine at the Point of the Mountain has no doubt been an important part of the growth of Salt Lake City, but whose life span needs to end as the population living near it is booming.
In a time when unemployment is one of the lowest in the country and our economic growth one of the fastest, it’s the right time to address the serious environmental issues we face, including the poor quality of the air we breathe.
Allowing Geneva Rock to rezone from agricultural to industrial with mining as a permitted use is the wrong decision. It would mean ensuring another 20-plus years of continued excavation and the harmful effects that has on air quality and in turn its citizens. Seniors and infants are especially susceptible to dust pollution.
I do hope the Draper City Council does the right thing at its meeting, at 6 p.m. Wednesday at Draper City Hall, where they will vote to allow this expansion and rezoning or shut it down. It’s an open meeting and I encourage all valley residents to show up and make their voices heard.
When the wind blows more than 25 mph, which by one report happens more than 40 percent of the time, the mine is exempt from paying fines for air pollution it’s causing. They still try to mitigate the dust by spraying water and other various means, but as we all know from first-hand experience that it can’t really be controlled, or the EPA wouldn’t have the exemption.
Of course Geneva Rock is only one of many causes of the toxic soup that is the air we breath in the Salt Lake Valley, but granting this rezoning and expansion is not what brings the high-tech companies that make up the Silicon Slopes to Utah. I wonder how long they will continue to come here and invest locally if the air quality continues to get worse and little effort is made by cities and the state to come up with a plan to work towards clean air and not against it.
Jonny Vasic is the executive director of Utah Physicians for a Healthy Environment.