Flintstone owner tries to crush complaints
June 29, 2010
Gravel-pit owner Ted Pratt surveyed his outer-Granby operation on Wednesday as he commented on the lack of wind, hoping that as the day unraveled, the morning calm would persist.Wind has been Pratt’s nemesis this summer – a threat to his livelihood.Having pumped close to $750,000 of savings into a long-term gravel operation he started up in February, Pratt’s Flintstone Gravel Pit has been selling in bulk to A&S Construction Co. of Canon City this summer for a 17-mile paving project in Rocky Mountain National Park. A&S has brought in about $2.5 to $3 million worth of crushing equipment to process the gravel it hauls to the Park to be turned into asphalt at a plant set up at the old Pontiac Pit. For this project, John Ary of A&S said he has about 100 people working on the job who are staying in hotels, motels and trailer parks in the Granby and Grand Lake area through the summer months.But winds carrying dust have been causing problems at Flintstone Gravel, with nearby neighbors complaining to the point Pratt’s operation was shut down on Tuesday.”I’ve never seen wind like I’ve seen this spring,” Pratt said, who’s lived in the county since 1959. “I’ve never seen a spring like this.”
“When’s the last time we had a paving project in Grand County, not a chip and seal, but a paving project?” Pratt asked as he stood near a 37-foot deep pit.By next summer, he explained, his own 50-year-old crusher will be located at the bottom with heightened berms surrounding it. Neighbors, he guessed, will then find him “out of sight, out of mind.””Other than Trail Ridge last year and this year, I can’t remember. It’s probably been 10-12 years since they paved the road up by the Vintage in Winter Park. That was the last paving job I know of,” Pratt said.Pratt thinks it will probably take about eight years before he recoups the investment he made for operating on 15 of 100 acres of mineable land owned by Fred Pickering, to whom he pays royalties for gravel sales.
The gravel operation is allowed under a county special use permit, which gives the public a chance to weigh in on potential impacts to neighbors.And in the first summer of Flintstone’s new location, weigh in they have.With each complaint, the gravel operation falls more vulnerable to having its county permit pulled.At the Grand County commissioners’ board meeting on June 22, several gravel pit neighbors testified that the dust was out of control.”When contacted regarding each complaint, the permittee is responsive; however, the complaints regarding violations continue, sometimes up to three complaints per day,” said County Planner Kris Manguso in a memo to the commissioners board.County commissioners voted on Tuesday to shut down all crushing at the gravel site effective immediately until the dust problem was mitigated.By Wednesday afternoon, following a county inspection, the cease order was lifted and crushing operations resumed.”We absolutely want to be good neighbors,” Pratt said, back at the pit the next day.
Most-recent complaints were targeted at 40-foot piles of crushed fine material, the culprits of dust in the heavy winds. The piles were reduced to about 30-feet high by Wednesday. Pratt explained the need to stockpile so that the crusher always stays ahead of the paver. Once paving really gets going, he said, the piles will shrink as the material is hauled to the park.And on Wednesday, workers operated two water trucks that hold a combined 6,000 gallons, plus two water tankers of a combined 11,000 gallons to water down piles. They also had two pumps running three sprinklers to control dust, as well as spray hoses on all conveyors. Pratt said A&S also planned to apply mag chloride on the Flintstone Gravel road off of County Road 61, something that was “above and beyond.”
“It’s the last major deposit left in eastern Grand County that doesn’t have houses tight to it,” Pratt said.To receive his county permit, Pratt was required to build a berm at the west end of the pit to protect homeowners from dust carried by the prevailing wind, but in light of homeowner complaints, he’s added a southern berm and is working on an eastern one too.To address noise, the pit operator has been visiting neighbors’ homes with a decibel reader and said he has found that readings are within the state’s regulations on residential noise. Federally mandated beeping sounds when machines reverse, truck-traffic noise and noise from on-site electricity generators are what neighbors can hear from their backyards. “When I hear it all through the house – and even though it’s below whatever decimal levels are allowed – it still affects me,” said Elaine Perdue, a resident since 1999 who sees and hears the operation from her backyard. When the pit opened, Perdue said her “quality of life went downhill.”She often wakes in the morning to the sound of diesel trucks, she said.But she recognizes that project operators have been making an effort to mitigate the noise and dust lately, she added. For example, truckers are no longer using their noisy jake brakes on the road nearby and she has seen company efforts toward dust control.”Everybody is trying finally to make it work, but it doesn’t mean it’s ever going to be a perfect thing,” Perdue said. “It’s going to be a matter of wait and see.”The constant truck traffic to Highway 34 is mostly attributed to A&S working steadily to try and finish the Park project in one year rather than in two, Pratt said.”I understand we’ve made an impact, but gravel has to come from somewhere,” he said. “It comes to a point to: What more can we do?” Pratt said.”I can’t make it rain and I can’t make the wind stop. All we can do is throw a tremendous amount of water on it.