Youngtown and the Agua Fria Ranch Homeowners Association have sued the developers of a proposed sand and gravel operation next to the Agua Fria Ranch subdivision.
The suit, filed in the Maricopa County Superior Court against Olive Avenue, LLC and the Salt River Materials Group, alleges that the project poses an imminent safety and health risk. SRMG is a commercial enterprise of the Salt River Pima-Maricopa Indian Community.
“We did not want to take this step, but for years SRMG has refused to address our concerns,” said Youngtown Mayor Mike LeVault. “If our positions were reversed, I’m sure they would be quite upset about someone putting a sand and gravel operation 50 feet away from a neighborhood of 2,500 people.”
Olive Avenue and SRMG have announced plans to operate a sand and gravel mining operation near 116th Avenue and Olive Avenue, within as few as 35 feet of the adjacent Agua Fria Ranch subdivision, which has 783 homes, Youngtown officials stated Thursday in a release.
Several thousand other homes, in Youngtown and El Mirage, “are also in close proximity to the proposed mine site,” officials said.
The suit alleges that the mine operators have failed to evaluate the risk that a proposed berm threatens to degrade existing flood control measures protecting the homes, raising the potential for a flood.
The complaint alleges that the proposed mining operation will create an elevated risk of flooding due to the fact that when Olive Avenue and SRMG applied for a permit to operate in the 100-year floodplain they used out-of-date information and failed to properly analyze the impact of the proposed berm and sand and gravel pit on existing flood control measures that protect the Agua Fria Ranch neighborhood from flooding.
Dr. Kathryn French, president of the Agua Fria Ranch Homeowners Association, said the residents were also worried about the potential for dust emissions from the proposed operation.
“There are innumerable studies demonstrating that fine particulates pose a health risk, especially to the very young and the elderly,” French said. “And at a time when Maricopa County is struggling to achieve compliance with air quality standards, it’s mind-boggling that this sort of operation is even being considered in such close proximity to so many homes.”
According to the suit, EPA studies show that exposure to particulate emissions — such as those from sand andgravel mining and processing — is linked to a variety of health problems, including premature death in people with heart or lung disease, nonfatal heart attacks, irregular heartbeat, aggravated asthma, decreased lung function, increased respiratory symptoms, irritation of the airways, coughing and difficulty breathing.
EPA studies also indicate that there is a causal relationship between even short-term exposure to particulates and respiratory and cardiovascular problems.
The court scheduled a hearing for Wednesday to take evidence regarding the claims.
If the court finds that sufficient risk is imposed by the proposed mine, it may grant a preliminary injunction that stops all work at the site until the merits of the case can be considered, Youngtown officials said.
The court may also require that the berm be torn down if completed between now and Wednesday’s hearing.