Fired-up neighbors push for change; gravel company told to quit

MERIDIAN, Idaho (KBOI) -- Meridian Planning and Zoning commissioners told Idaho Sand and Gravel they have six months to wrap-up operations at a gravel pit on Overland Rd after neighbors complained that dust from the pit has been creating a health risk in the area.

Many residents in the Aspen Cove neighborhood and surrounding areas filed complaints at a meeting Thursday night with commissioners. Each neighbor said they've had enough.

"Ryan Russel of IS&G was quoted on KBOI as stating, 'mining operations on the site have taken place for decades without such concerns being raised, this operation is no different and should not cause concerns,'" one neighbor said. "My family has owned this property for decades... Ryan Russel has not been around."

Earlier this month, KBOI reported on the issue after neighbors brought up their concerns to our newsroom. Neighbors said they've dealt with dust covering their homes and yards for three years. They said on breezy days, it's common to have to hose off outdoor furniture two or three times a day to clear it.

"I was standing with our neighbors on their front lawn, watching my 15-month-old kick up dust as he ran across our lawn," another neighbor said at Thursday night's meeting. "Our BBQ is covered in it... Our windows, our patio chairs."

"The past three years have been an utter disaster."

One neighbor, Glen Hickey, hired a lab in Boise to test the dust. The report given to KBOI showed the dust contains more than 87 percent silica, which can cause silicosis, a type of lung disease if inhaled often.

"I've developed a chronic dry cough in the last year-and-a-half and I have several neighbors in the area that have similar symptoms," another neighbor said.

But a lung doctor from St. Luke's told KBOI she wasn't sure if the amounts found were enough of an exposure to make neighbors sick.

Idaho Sand and Gravel was originally asking for an 18-month permit extension. At Meridian City Hall Thursday, IS&G said they were willing to fix the problem and asked for less time.

"We're willing to water the piles if that's what you want and we're willing to complete the reclamation in 12 months," said Todd Lakey, IS&G spokesman.

But commissioners told the company they have six months to end operations.