Asphalt mixing

The Highway 20 paving project has concluded and the temporary Houck Construction asphalt mixing plant is set to move back to Salem.

But the controversy over the odors and noise that the plant on Clemens Mill Road between Corvallis and Philomath generated still lingers.

“At least we enjoyed several nights without noise and fumes,” said Rollie Baxter, who lives in Corvallis in the Grand Oaks neighborhood. Baxter, a former city employee, was the most assertive of many residents in Corvallis and Philomath who raised concerns about the plant.

The land is under Benton County jurisdiction, with the asphalt mixing an outright permitted use in the urban industrial zone. County officials agreed to look at possible code changes, but at a Sept. 26 board of commissioners work session on long-range planning, the asphalt issue wound up behind other priorities.

“The board placed a higher priority on the sizable issues of addressing the county’s role in affordable housing, issues of groundwater availability for rural development and potential prohibition of medical marijuana in residential zones,” said Gregg Verret, the county’s community development director.

Also, the board favored a systemic review of all of the uses that are allowed in industrial zones, not just asphalt plants. Verret was scheduled to present Wednesday to the board a document summarizing the priorities.

“The county has declined to address the issue in a simple or straightforward manner,” Baxter said, “and has, instead, broadened the issue into a complete and comprehensive review of the entire urban industrial zone, which will take years. The county takes this approach even though the only serious health or livability issue … is the asphalt plant.”

Baxter also was disappointed in the response of the state Department of Environmental Quality. The plant was inspected and Houck Construction was hit with one emissions violation that required a corrective action plan to be filed by Oct. 29, long after the paving project concluded.

“DEQ issued a warning letter to the company requiring the corrective action plan but did not issue a fine,” said Katherine Benenati, public affairs specialist in the DEQ’s Eugene office. “We will review documentation of the final corrective action when it is submitted.”

Baxter noted the DEQ inspection did not take place in the post-midnight hours when the odor and noise problems peaked.

The complaints began in late July when Baxter and others first experienced late night odors and noise from the plant, which was feeding asphalt to an Oregon Department of Transportation repaving project on Highway 20. The paving work ran from 7 p.m. to 6 a.m., with the asphalt plant working on the same schedule. Most of the complaints stemmed from overnight disturbances.

Angela Beers Seydel, public information officer with ODOT’s Region 2, noted that the paving work that required the Houck asphalt concluded Oct. 5.

“There are a couple of driveways left to do,” Beers Seydel said, “but the contractor is going to buy asphalt from someone else (and) not use the plant.”

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