Council finds gravel pit testing inconclusive

Revelstoke city council has opted to ask the provincial environment ministry and Worksafe BC for their comments on test results from the controversial Westside Road gravel pit.

Revelstoke city council has opted to ask the provincial environment ministry and Worksafe BC for their comments on test results from the controversial Westside Road gravel pit.

Council asked the proponents to provide air quality testing results in July of 2010 after residents expressed concern about exposure to crystalline silica in dust from the pit.

The results were first discussed by the city’s committee of the whole on April 5.

A staff report says the tests appear to “show that the levels are well below the allowable limits.” However, that same report notes nobody on staff is qualified to interpret the results.

Coun. Phil Welock wondered about the timing of the tests, which were done on seven days in late February and early March. He wondered if the results would be different if taken “during the hot summer months.”

Coun. Steve Bender noted the summary prepared for council was written by Interroute, the pit operator, noting “the company that is making the dust is studying the dust.”

Later on, at the April 12 city council regular meeting, council opted to ask for outside help interpreting the results.

Coun. Antoinette Halberstadt told council she had new questions about the testing methods, saying she didn’t think council had “reached the end” of the issue.

Resident Stuart Andrews, who lives across the Columbia River from the pit and has led opposition to the expansion of the existing pit when clearing started in the spring of 2010, disputed many aspects of the report.

In an email, Andrews questioned many aspects of the testing. He criticized testing methods, and forwarded information about calibration of the testing machines under sub-zero temperatures.

Andrews also questioned exactly who administered the tests and also questioned if allowable baseline levels of particulites tested for were correct.

For now, it appears the controversy will continue.

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In March, the city introduced their first draft of a soil removal bylaw, which seeks to levy charges against those operating soil extraction businesses in city limits, amongst other objectives. That early draft of the bylaw has been sent to stakeholder groups and council has promised upcoming public consultation on the bylaw.