Assessing the Impacts of Volcanic Rock Mining on Rural Communities

Clark County, Washington

Featured image for the project, Assessing the Impacts of Volcanic Rock Mining on Rural Communities

Yacolt Mountain Quarry Aerial View, Photo by The Columbian

Description

Clark County is a county in the southwest corner of Washington State with the Columbia River defining its southern and western borders. Outside of its most populous area of Vancouver, WA, majority of the county is rural and forested. Nested between the Cascade Mountains and the Pacific Coast, the East Fork of the Lewis River, a tributary to the Columbia, cuts through the northern part of the county and provides cold water habitat for endangered Pacific salmonids. Community members describe their home as beautiful and note that their rural lifestyle provides both privacy, a quiet retreat, and endless opportunities for outdoor recreation.

Over the past five years, community members have voiced concerns about the environmental and health impacts from nearby Yacolt Mountain Quarry, where volcanic rock is mined and crushed into gravel and other aggregate. Approximately 1,300 homes are located within 2 miles of the quarry and have complained of loud blasts rattling their homes. Dust and noise generated from the mining operations and truck travel disturbs residents on a daily basis. Residents are also concerned about the impact of the mining on the local aquifer which supplies drinking water and the health of critical salmonid streams. There is a general concern about the impact of the mining operations on drinking water supplies. Dust settles out in people’s homes and there is increased concern over the risk of landslides from the operations. The 2014 mudslide that killed 43 people in Oso, WA remains fresh in people’s memories.

In December 2018, the Clark County Council approved the expansion of the mine to the south to store overburden. Concerns over the quarry’s impacts have only deepened and residents have organized to focus more attention on the issue. An analysis of dust collected inside a home in Battle Ground, WA found dust particles with characteristics similar to Woolly Erionite, a naturally occurring asbestos. When airborne, Woolly Erionite can be inhaled where the fibers become lodged in the lungs, causing respiratory, cardiovascular and increased cancer risk. Residents are concerned that the Woolly Erionite may be associated with the mining activity.

The recently established East Fork Community Coalition (EFCC) is dedicated to protecting families and homes along the East Fork of the Lewis River. They do this by sharing information and communicating concerns about issues facing the area. EFCC’s goal for this project is to gain new information about the impacts that the Quarry is having on the environment and residents in the area. This includes understanding the composition and source of the dust that settles out, how the dust is generated, the risks of continued mining to drinking water, and the potential for landslides.

The first priority for this project will be to engage with a scientist to further understand the composition and source of the dust. Other priorities will addressed in later phases of the project.

Project Impacts: Beneficiaries include community members of all ages who reside near the quarry as well as the natural resources and assets across the landscape. Health risks will be lowered, and the expectation is that the community will know how to mitigate exposure to any risks that the quarry operations may pose. By bringing the community together around a common goal, the community leaders will be able to bring the needs of this community to the forefront of policy- and decision-makers.

Project Outputs:

Outputs include:

  • Maps (spatial representation of environmental data)
  • Reports (to be used in negotiating with local politicians)
  • Educational materials to be used in the community

 

Updates

Clark County WA team attends Erionite Workshop

On October 1, 2019 Marie Ogier and Alyssa Shiel attended a workshop in Bend, Oregon on Erionite and Naturally Occurring Asbestos (NOA). The workshop addressed the permitting of Eriniote and NOA as well as how it’s analyzed in a lab and how to manage the risks associated with them. Both reflected on how serious exposure can be – including the connection of Erionite to lung cancer and mesothelioma. Erionite and NOA can easily become re-mobilized and carried on the winds. The science for identifying these minerals is evolving.

Marie Ogier (left) and Alyssa Shiel (right) in Bend, OR at a workshop on Erionite.

All updates for this project

Project Team

Community Leaders

Dick Leeuwenburg is the president and founding member of the East Fork Community Coalition (EFCC). He has a BS in Industrial Engineering from Stanford University and an MBA from the University of Chicago.  Work experience includes a stint as an economist for an international oil company and CEO of a publicly traded corporation.  Dick and his wife , Jann, have lived on 35 acres in the valley of the East Fork of the Lewis River for 25 years.

         

Marie Ogier is the Secretary for EFCC and a former Sales Executive, training sales personnel in business, networking, and management.  She has served on the Board for 3 regional non-profits specializing in fundraising, sponsorship, and advocating.  As a Community Volunteer and Master Gardener she enjoys collaborating with others for a safe and healthy environment. Living with her husband, Gary, in Clark Co for 31 years, she respects and appreciates the irreplaceable asset of the East Fork of the Lewis River. She is also a founding member of East Fork Community Coalition.

 

Science Liaison

Dr. Alyssa Shiel is an Assistant Professor in Geology & Geophysics at Oregon State University. She studies heavy stable isotope geochemistry and the environmental fate of metals/metalloids. Bio coming soon!