County Council committee wrestles with issue of reclaimed asphalt for nearly four hours

By BURKE WASSON

Is helping the asphalt industry to recycle and lower construction costs worth any potential health risks? That essentially is the question the County Council wrestled with last week for nearly four fours.

During a June 27 Committee-of-the-Whole hearing, council members considered a bill that would allow reclaimed asphalt pavement, or RAP, to be stored at asphalt plants and quarries, and heard from numerous representatives of the construction and asphalt industries as well as residents.

Third District Councilman Skip Mange, R-Town and Country, originally proposed the bill as a way to help the county’s asphalt industry and make projects more efficient by keeping costs down and recycling.

However, 6th District Councilman John Campisi, R-south county, believes that Mange introduced the bill only to help Fred Weber Inc.’s Oakville quarry on New Baumgartner Road. Weber’s quarry, which sits in Campisi’s district, has more than 275,000 tons of illegally stored RAP piles. If passed, the legislation would legalize that storage and allow other asphalt plants and quarries in St. Louis County to do the same.

But Oakville residents near Weber’s south quarry plant fear the County Council essentially would promote the continued potential health risks in the area from that asphalt and its processing.

One resident, Tom Diehl, submitted test results taken near RAP storage in south county that showed high levels of chemicals in the soil near such asphalt piles. Diehl collected the samples and then submitted them to the Sitelab Corp. in West Newbury, Mass., for analysis.

But county Department of Health Director Delores Gunn said that through water and soil samples the county has collected this year at Weber’s Oakville quarry, the department cannot conclude that the asphalt plant is posing any health risks to the community.

The Missouri Department of Natural Resources and the Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services also have concluded that the RAP piles are not harmful to people’s health.

Diehl, however, said these studies, including the county’s current air-monitoring study of the area around Weber’s Oakville quarry, are flawed for several reasons.

“First of all, the EPA (Environmental Protection Agency) says that when you do ambient air monitoring, you should do it for the entire season,” Diehl said. “If you remember color codes or anything, ozone season in the St. Louis area runs from about mid-April to mid-October. Due to lack of funds, we got a six-week test with two samples being taken each week or every week. And yes, Fred Weber knows when the monitors are running. They also know when they were taken down. Since they’ve been taken down, gee, the operation of the asphalt plant has greatly increased. You know, the asphalt industry wants you to believe that this is benign material.

“And I’ve given this body study after endless study that refutes their claims. The Missouri Department of Natural Resources once claims that it’s clean filled, yet even they refuse to test the soil in or under a RAP pile or around the RAP pile at Fred Weber quarry. All the samples they’ve talked about, none of them were any closer than 150 yards of the RAP piles. I mean, you talk about a business-friendly agency, DNR is fitting the bill. The health department, for some reason, has decided to backtrack on their own warnings and recommendations, which I gave (the County Council) as part of that 1,200 pages of material, in order to appease the asphalt producers.

“Since we get no satisfaction from our government, we took things into our own hands and we conducted our own independent study of other RAP piles in St. Louis County. It’s amazing how quickly I can get samples tested when it takes St. Louis County a year and a half to get soil samples done.”

Diehl’s test included seven soil samples from in and around such RAP piles in south county. In one sample directly under a RAP pile, 9,830 parts per million of extractable petroleum hydrocarbons were found.

“That includes the benzopyrine, the highly toxic material that was found at the Fred Weber quarry — 9,830 parts per million is well beyond the requirements of the EPA,” Diehl said.

The study also showed that a soil sample taken roughly 20 yards from one RAP pile contained 376 parts per million. The level of petroleum hydrocarbons in soil rose to 843 parts per million from a sample collected in a nearby gully that water from the tested RAP pile flows toward.

But Gunn said that from the soil and water tests that she and county health staff conducted, she does not believe RAP is harmful to the health of anyone who comes in close contact.

She said from water samples collected from basins around Weber’s quarry and near Mattis Creek, there were elevations of benzopyrine and molybdenum detected, but not in harmful amounts for recreational use.

“Actually, it was detected at molybdenum at 1,610 mi-crograms per liter. So what does this mean? Normally, if you have someone and it’s their drinking water, the level or area of exposure that it should be is 50 for children and 200 for adults, and this one was 1,600. Then we’d ask what would this be used for? Is this source a supply of drinking water? And of course it’s not. So then there’s another set of data and more comparison you do for recreational use and recreational purposes. So then what you do is take the information you have, and the stream may only be used for recreational purposes.

“For incidental ingestion of recreational water, the acceptable level is actually 57,000 micrograms per liter. And for dermal contact also, our recreational water acceptable level is 60,000 micrograms per liter. So if that creek could be used for any recreational area and there was exposure to the skin or incidental ingestion due to recreation, then we’re looking at a range of 57,000 to 60,000 micrograms per liter. And since that is not used for drinking water, the detectant levels are actually significantly lower than what we consider safe for recreational and do not pose a significant risk at this time.

“After collaborating with the Center for Disease Control and the Missouri Department of Natural Resources and the Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services, we have actually come to the conclusion that the results indicate when compared to this and using the Agency for Toxic Substance and Disease Registry references, there actually does not appear, as far as the water and sediment that we tested, to be a risk at this time.”

Mange has said that any potential health risks that could come from an asphalt plant are from its processing and not simple storage. Because his proposed bill would only affect the storage of RAP piles, he does not believe that it would pose any further threat to people’s health.

Besides health risks, the issue of whether asphalt plants would actually be able to distribute the RAP piles was discussed by council members.

Seventh District Councilman Greg Quinn said he would be in favor of amending the bill to include limitations on the RAP piles’ size and not just its height, which has been previously recommended by the Planning Commission.

“I’ve heard the argument that if we don’t do this, this RAP will go to a landfill,” Quinn said. “And I guess one of the things that I would be a little concerned about would be that these sites will become landfills themselves if we don’t monitor recycling. And I think there’s no provision for doing that. Are we going to watch these sites and see whether or not there is recycling?”

The county currently has eight quarry sites in unincorporated areas, five of which have asphalt plants. Of those five, three have RAP storage. These include the Bussen Antire Quarry Plant near Highway 44 outside Eureka, the Central Stone Quarry near Highway 367 just before the Missouri River and Weber’s south quarry on New Baumgartner Road in Oakville.

Asphalt industry spokesmen and county Department of Planning Director Glenn Powers reiterated that the matter is a countywide issue — not just about Weber’s quarry.

“This isn’t just about Fred Weber south,” Powers said. “There is a relationship, a vocational relationship if you will, between quarries and asphalt plants and the storage of RAP.

“The purpose of the amendment really is to give a little bit more flexibility to where asphalt can be stored on what is usually a large site like a public quarry which happens to have an asphalt plant. And upon review, the Planning Commission looked at this and viewed the storage of RAP on a site that has an asphalt plant within a quarry as logical and something we ought to permit. We encourage the recycling of asphalt. So it wasn’t difficult for them to come to that conclusion.”

Even though Weber’s Oakville quarry has not recycled its RAP piles for more than two years, an attorney representing Weber said that is because the county took action against Weber for the 275,000 tons of RAP stored illegally at its site. Gary Feder said Weber wants to get back to recycling those piles and currently does so at other quarries in the county. But with those piles violating a conditional-use permit, Feder said Weber would rather be cautious for now.

Feder continued that Weber had previously requested a zoning change at the site of the RAP piles to make them legal, but that the County Council never took action.

With this bill, Feder said, their concerns would be alleviated.

“We have tried for two years to address this problem,” he said. “I think the company would like to begin recycling actively in south quarry as it is at its other sites. But it can only do that if some measure is taken. And I think the most efficient is the one that is before you to allow this thing to go forward. And recycling will continue and will commence, and I think will go rapidly again depending on the ability to use that RAP material. But I think Weber’s experience at other places is that it uses RAP on a considerable basis because recycling makes a lot of sense. They use it in other places. They can do it here as well if given the opportunity to do so.”

Campisi questioned Feder’s support of the bill and further contended that the bill was unnecessary because Weber could ask for a zoning change any time it wanted.

“What is it in Councilman Mange’s bill that makes it better for your client to store asphalt RAP in this quarry?” he asked Feder.

“I don’t know the question about what is better or not,” Feder said. “But what I do know is that the effect of this ordinance, I believe, would make permissible the storage of RAP in its current location.”

“So what the answer from Gary Feder is …” Campisi said. “We know that the laws that we have here in county government work. And therefore, there really is no need for another specific law. We can as a council member, whether a quarry be in your area or not, can tell a quarry that they have to have a specific pile of maybe 10 feet high or 15 feet wide. We can do that as council members. The laws are in place now as it sits to do that. That’s correct.”

“Not you by yourself,” Mange responded to Campisi.

“I said that,” Campisi said. “The council has to. So I’m asking Gary Feder another question. Why is it that he thinks this bill will be better than the current laws that are on the books now?”

“That’s the same question that you asked me before, Councilman Campisi,” Feder said. “And I gave you an answer.”

Campisi said he cannot support the bill as it currently stands because the interests of business are being followed more than the interests of nearby residents on this particular issue.

“The haste to pass this bill is pushing this council to pass this bill before we even have the final report from the Missouri Depart-ment of Natural Resources on the potential pollution hazard and the expansion of the asphalt storage by the Fred Weber company,” Campisi said. “It’s in violation and has been in violation since February 2004. Why it hasn’t come up in court yet I have no idea. I think this whole thing is wrong.”