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Mead residents worry strip mine plans will open toxic "Pandora's box"

Mead residents worry strip mine plans will open toxic "Pandora's box"

MEAD, Wash. - Neighbors in Mead are upset about plans to develop a new strip mine that would produce sand for local concrete plants, fearing the operations on an old landfill would be like opening up a toxic "Pandora's box."

Central Pre-Mix, Spokane's largest concrete company, wants to start carving up sand dunes between Yale Road and Chronicle, just north of Farwell Road. But they're having trouble getting a zoning change for the 60 acre property.

The land in question is part of the old Mead Township dump where people dropped off garbage and waste for 30 years. Residents worry some of the industries that put Mead on the map may have also dumped toxic waste in the area.

"Magnesium plant, aluminum plant, Burlington Northern Railroad yard, an oil refinery, power substation," nearby resident Amy Wharf said, naming off some of those industries.

The dumping happened between 1939 and 1969, long before environmental protection laws regulated the way waste products were disposed of. The concern is if Central Pre-Mix starts mining sand, those operations may uncover that waste.

"We have reports from people who are still working in agriculture who know things like DDT and other really toxic insecticides and herbicides were just dumped in there too," Wharf said.

Central Pre-Mix says it has no intention of digging down into the dump, but rather just blading off the top of the sand dunes. Wharf says removing the berm may channel more rain water into the basin and push toxins into the aquifer below.

"And cause, actually, more stormwater to combine with aquifer water and leach through the dump," Wharf said.

Central Pre-Mix has hired a hydrogeologist to prove that won't happen. The company has also dug test pits to make sure their mining operations won't tap into the landfill's deposits.

Central Pre-Mix says it needs more sand to keep up with demand for concrete, including construction of the nearby North South Freeway.

Whether or not the company gets its zoning change is up to the Spokane County Hearing Examiner, who will accept testimony for and against the proposal at the Public Works building November 9. 


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