Mound House residents who live near a Carson City asphalt plant on Highway 50 East came out Wednesday to oppose an expansion of the site’s operations.
In public comment, 10 nearby residents spoke emotionally about suffering from the odor the plant produces and concerns about its health effects.
“It gets in your nose, it gets in your mouth. You can taste it,” said Laura Webster, one nearby neighbor. “It is nasty and it can’t be good for you.”
The residents spoke during a meeting of the Planning Commission, which was considering a modification of a special use permit (SUP) for Tahoe Western Asphalt that would allow the plant to operate an hour earlier, and at night for up to 30 days a year.
The application said the additional hours are needed to meet demand, especially from upcoming road projects, including Carson City’s South Carson Street project and improvements on Highway 50 from Stagecoach to Silver Springs.
The commission voted 5-1 to approve the modification with conditions that included adding a chemical additive to the manufacturing process to reduce odors. The SUP will also be reviewed in a year to see if the additive is working.
Commissioner Hope Tingle voted no, saying she approved of the condition to reduce the odors, but couldn’t affirm the necessary findings to approve the request. Commissioner Elyse Monroy, was absent.
Staff said air quality is the purview of the Nevada Department of Environmental Protection (NDEP), but the city could try to mitigate odor by adding conditions to the modified SUP.
“We have two options. We can vote no and it continues as is,” said Commission Chair Mark Sattler, or vote yes and add the new condition, which could reduce or eliminate the odor.
Tahoe Western’s initial SUP to operate the plant was approved in 2011, but the business didn’t begin manufacturing asphalt until July, 2016.
Since then, NDEP’s Bureau of Air Pollution has cited it repeatedly.
“Between January 2017 and March of 2018, NDEP cited the business seven times for violations related to air quality, and assessed fines of $61,055,” reads the staff report.
To date, NDEP has received $11,650 in payments with seven more payments totaling $16,300 due by year end.
The applicant provided four recent inspection reports saying the plant is now in compliance, and NDEP submitted a letter dated Oct. 16 affirming the business’ permit is now in good standing.
The business has also been cited three times by Carson City code enforcement for operating during hours not allowed by the original SUP.
Carson City also received 56 complaints from residents regarding the plant’s odors and hours of operation since it started up.
Residents at the meeting asked why instead of modifying the SUP it couldn’t be terminated.
The Planning Commission can consider revocation of an SUP if the applicant doesn’t comply with terms or conditions.
“The commission, upon its own motion, or upon the sworn complaint in writing of any person, or upon information presented by the director shall request that the director investigate the conduct of any applicant under this chapter to determine whether grounds for revocation or reexamination of any variance or special use permit exist,” according to city code.
The city of Fernley experienced a similar situation in 2015, when residents complained about odors emanating from the Paramount-Nevada Asphalt Co. plant there.
The company eventually added a regenerative thermal oxidizer, which cost $1.2 million to install.
An additive costs much less, and city staff recommended giving that option a try to see if the lower cost solution worked.
Sattler asked if the SUP could be reviewed sooner, but the applicant, Robert Matthew, said the plant will close down in a month and operate only for a few days between then and March or April.