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Proposed zoning amendment sparks information battle


October 26, 2005 - Representatives of the asphalt industry and south county residents are in an information battle that could impact whether the county's zoning ordinance is amended to allow the storage and processing of recycled asphalt at quarry sites with asphalt plants.

Since the county Planning Commission was asked to consider recommending a change to the zoning ordinance in August, the Department of Planning has been inundated by studies and information about recycled asphalt and the asphalt industry.

"We've read it all, and we've reviewed it and we're trying to get the best information that we can, trying to analyze it the best we can," county Planner Mike Zeek told the Call.

The County Council asked the Planning Commission on Aug. 30 to review the zoning ordinance and propose changes re-garding the storage and stockpiling of re-cycled asphalt. Councilman Skip Mange, R-Town and Country, introduced the resolution, stating, "A problem of storing the asphalt millings for the recycling operations has arisen in some quarries in St. Louis County. Typically the quarry site operating under a conditional use permit is very large, but the asphalt plant site that was rezoned to an industrial use is only large enough for the plant, and not for the temporary storage of milled asphalt material used in the recycling operation."

Proponents of the legislation have submitted materials that state how the change to the zoning ordinance would facilitate the use of recycled asphalt, which would save tax dollars and save space in landfills. They also have submitted documents that state that recycled asphalt is a safe material for the environment, as well as for people.

"I trust you will agree after viewing the above professional and independently re-searched studies, that asphalt pavement re-cycling is an integral part of today's road construction industry and is widely accepted throughout the country," stated Roger Gag-liano, vice president of operations for Fred Weber Inc., in a letter. "The overall environmental and economic benefits to the public at-large and construction related industries are enormous — and these advantages hold true to the metro St. Louis area also."

Opponents of the proposed amendment have said that such a change simply would alter the law to accommodate Fred Weber's quarry in Oakville, which has 275,000 tons of recycled asphalt illegally stockpiled at the site. Weber had requested a zoning change at the site to legalize the recycled asphalt pile, but the request was denied June 21 when Councilman John Campisi, R-south county, asked to drop the issue from the council's agenda.

Oakville residents who live near the asphalt quarry say that any change to the zoning ordinance that would allow stockpiling and processing of recycled asphalt at asphalt quarries is too general and would not take into account the special circumstances of each quarry.

"RAP production is a hazard to both the workers and the public who live around RAP plants," Barbara Diehl of Oakville stated in a letter. "While Mr. Zeek pointed out in his presentations that most RAP plants are in isolated areas, in Oakville the County has allowed residences, schools, and churches to adjoin and be close to the asphalt and RAP operations."

Although many residents have spoken against such a change, Tom and Barbara Diehl are the only residents who have submitted written documentation against the change, including studies that point to possible health and environmental hazards associated with recycled asphalt.

The Planning Commission has posted all documents that were submitted regarding the proposed change at the St. Louis County Web site, www.co.st-louis.mo.us, under the link titled "Information on Pro-posed Rezoning Case related to Recycled Asphalt Pavement." The Web site also includes letters in support of the measure from the Missouri Asphalt Pavement Association, Fred Weber, the National Asphalt Pavement Association, the North Central Superpave Center, the Missouri Limestone Producers Association, the Site Improvement Association and Gary Feder, an attorney representing Fred Weber, Inc.

The only parties that included documentation and research along with their letters were representatives of Fred Weber.

For example, Fred Weber submitted a study conducted in 1994 by Montana State University for the Montana Department of Transportation that found that leaching was not a problem with recycled asphalt.

"Thus it appears that contamination of water by organic compounds leached from reclaimed hot mix asphalt pavement when it is stockpiled or used as shoulder cover is not likely, considering present tests and standards," the study states.

Weber also submitted documents that point to the asphalt industry's efforts in the community, including a document compiled by the National Asphalt Pavement Association.

"No industry has worked harder or more effectively to make itself a good neighbor in the communities it served than the hot-mix asphalt industry," the document states. "On a cooperative, voluntary basis, the asphalt industry has reduced emissions to low levels. It recycles like no other industry in the country. ..."

Tom Diehl, who submitted research about possible safety hazards, said the material submitted by Fred Weber is slanted.

"The material from the asphalt producers are either materials directly from asphalt associations or from studies the asphalt associations funded and you can compare it to the information we provided, which are from independent associations and universities of all types."

Among the research Tom Diehl submitted was a study conducted by the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health in coordination with various international organizations that found that asphalt fumes cause irritation of the eyes, nose and respiratory tract. It also found that when roofing asphalt was applied to the skin of mice, it caused benign and malignant skin tumors to form.

"Studying the possible health effects attributed to chemical mixtures, including resulting fumes and vapors, is complex. ... Taken as a whole, these results suggest that effects do occur in mammalian systems and that the limitations or uncertainties should not preclude taking steps to manage human exposures," the study states.

Zeek said that the Planning Commission is reviewing the documents and taking into account the source of the documents and any possible bias.

"It's like any research, you have to look at where the source is coming from," he said.

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