County Council committee meeting on Oakville milled asphalt postponed

By BURKE WASSON

While Oakville residents have said that asphalt storage at a New Baumgartner Road plant is hazardous to nearby neighbors’ health, the County Council soon will decide whether such storage at quarry sites is suitable for that location as well as the entire county.

The County Council now is scheduled to meet Tuesday, May 16, in a Committee-of-the-Whole meeting to determine whether to allow the storage of milled asphalt next to authorized asphalt plants. The meeting originally was scheduled for Wednesday, April 26.

The county Planning Commission recommended in February that the council amend the county zoning ordinance to permit such storage.

Third District County Councilman Skip Mange, R-Town and Country, originally introduced the bill to allow reclaimed asphalt pavement, or RAP, piles to be stored next to quarry plants as an accessory use.

But the representative of the district where Weber’s Oakville plant is located — 6th District County Councilman John Campisi, R-south county — said the countywide ordinance proposal is not good for the entire area and merely is a way to fix Weber’s illegally piled 275,000 tons of RAP storage.

“This particular legislation does something for one person and one person only,” Campisi said. “I believe it was targeted to the 6th District. I believe it was targeted to (Weber’s) quarry. I don’t believe any kind of violation should sit in court as long as it has. I think those asphalt piles are toxic. Studies, I’m sure, will prove that they’re toxic.

“The people around the area have told the county many, many, many times in many different ways that the smell from the asphalt pile and the asphalt plant that sits there is very damaging to their health.”

Oakville resident and recently elected Mehlville Board of Education member Tom Diehl, who has submitted to the County Council numerous studies concerning asphalt storage’s negative health effects emitted through RAP piles, said he sees the bill as a very dangerous precedent for other asphalt plants in St. Louis County.

“Do they really want to set a precedent of allowing any non-conforming use that’s currently here in St. Louis County to have the right to change their operation and ex-pand their operation?” Diehl said. “That’s scary.”

Diehl and his wife, Barbi, have submitted more than 1,200 pages of documents and research to the St. Louis County health and planning departments. These include a study by the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health that concludes that asphalt fumes cause irritation of the eyes, nose and respiratory tract.

Studies submitted by Diehl from the Department of Natural Resources and the state health departments of Minnesota and Utah also show asphalt’s potentially damaging effects to people and habitats when stored near waterways and flood plains, which lie near Weber’s plant.

But some local and state health departments have not found any connection between health risks and asphalt piles stored near homes.

The county Department of Health, the Missouri Department of Natural Resources and the Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services have studied the health effects of the asphalt piles on surrounding areas and concluded that their presence does not pose a health risk.

However, the county health department does recommend that RAP storage should have limits on its amount, height, proximity to bodies of water and homes and also limits on the amount of time the asphalt is stored in one location.

County Department of Health Director Laura Gunn also has recommended that a barrier be placed around the base of the storage piles to prevent any runoff and that any runoff evidence whatsoever should be collected and analyzed.

The Planning Commission responded to the health department’s recommendations on height and proximity of the piles to homes in the proposed bill by moving that the zoning ordinance set a maximum stockpile height of 35 feet and a minimum distance of 300 feet to residentially zoned properties.

County Planner Mike Zeek said homes in the area of Weber’s property are well outside of that minimum distance.

He estimated that the closest home to the asphalt piles at Weber’s property is 680 feet away from RAP storage.

But Diehl and Campisi said even though the homes nearest the illegal asphalt piles are well outside of the Planning Commission’s proposed boundaries, that doesn’t mean they’re immune from increased health risks.

Besides the health risks associated with such asphalt storage, Diehl points out that the only two asphalt plants in St. Louis County that have RAP storage are owned by Weber, which feeds his suspicion that the bill is only being introduced to help one person get out of legal trouble.

“While they claim that this is not about a single asphalt plant or operation, the planning department staff in their presentation said of the six quarries of asphalt plants in St. Louis County, only two have RAP piles,” Diehl said. “Both of those are owned by Fred Weber, and the Fred Weber south quarry is the only one currently in violation of its conditional use permit and facing action from the county.

“Not only do they want to make a zoning ordinance to permit the storage, they’re also going to have to rewrite the county ordinances concerning non-conforming uses, the Flood Protection Act, the conditional use permit. But there are several county ordinances that this asphalt pile is in conflict with that wouldn’t be addressed by merely saying that they can store asphalt on property adjacent to an asphalt plant.”

Besides his problems with the ordinances that the Planning Commission’s proposal would overstep, Diehl said he has problems with the Planning Commission itself and believes its members should have looked at more studies before making a recommendation.

That is why Campisi said he is looking forward to the May 16 Committee-of-the-Whole meeting so that the council can be presented with information from all sides of the issue.

“I am just hoping that everybody attends and comes out in full force,” Campisi said. “I know people are getting tired, but we have to do this. We have to get back out in full force and make our voices heard once again in St. Louis County.

“I will not quit fighting and I’ll be right there with those people defending my constituents out there and their rights and their health,” he added.

To give up those rights for the benefit of a company in violation of county ordinances, Campisi said, would be unconscionable.

“To wrap it up in a nutshell, I think this is all for one person and one person only and one company and one company only,” Campisi said. “I just think it’s unfair to allow this to happen and go on just because I think one of the councilmen in the area thinks it needs to happen.”

An attorney who represents Fred Weber, Gary Feder of Husch & Eppenberger, was unavailable for comment before the Call’s press time.

The Committee-of-the-Whole meeting will take place at 6:30 p.m. Tuesday, May 16, in the County Council Chamber in the Administration Building, 41 S. Central Ave., Clayton.