Debate heats up over asphalt plant near Rifle
The Garfield County Commission on Tuesday further delayed a decision about an asphalt plant proposal southeast of Rifle amid growing debate over its potential impact on an adjacent organic farm.
“It simply doesn’t make sense to compromise this unique community resource,” Gwen Garcelon, one supporter of the 1,200-acre Eagle Springs Organic farm, said during several hours of debate about the proposal Tuesday afternoon.
Bedrock Resources LLC wants to move its plant east of Silt to a 35-acre site east of the Garfield County Regional Airport and south of Interstate 70. The farm is downwind of the proposed site, and it fears the resulting pollution could taint its air and soil and jeopardize its organic certification.
While dozens of people have spoken out against the proposal, Tuesday and in emails to commissioners, some area residents supported the asphalt plant during Tuesday’s hearing. Dick Morgan, a Silt-area farmer, said he hasn’t smelled odors or seen impacts on vegetation from the existing plant.
“I’ve never seen any evidence where they are that there’s any residue coming out of that plant,” he said.
Commissioners first considered the proposal two weeks ago. They decided Tuesday to further delay a decision until Monday, so they can consider the growing amount of comments, written materials and other information they’ve been provided.
Commissioners also heard concerns Tuesday from some people living near the proposed site, including Nanci Limbach. She said fumes at the existing plant are bad, and that any chemicals that show up in required testing of the honey that she and her husband, Paul, produce would force it to be shut down.
“I’d just like you to really consider where (the proposed plant) is going and the impact it will have on agriculture in that area,” she told commissioners.
Dave Smith, an attorney representing the project developers, said local area gas wells pads, including some on the farm site, put out more air pollutants than would the asphalt plant, which has much stricter regulations. There is just a 20-foot buffer between some pads and the farm operations, Smith said, whereas the plant would be located 400 feet from the property line and shielded by a 26-foot berm, he said.
Scott Balcomb, an attorney representing Eagle Springs Organic, said the plant will put out tons of air pollutants, but he added, “Frankly, it’s the place that they’re doing it that’s the problem here, not the tonnage that they’re emitting.”