Napa County’s long-running Syar quarry expansion battle is moving from the Board of Supervisors chamber to the courtroom.
Two groups are challenging the county’s decision to allow Syar Industries to expand its rock quarry southeast of the city of Napa. They will seek in Napa County Superior Court to overturn the county’s Oct. 18 approval of the project.
Stop Syar Expansion filed one lawsuit and Skyline Park Citizens Association filed the other.
Kathy Felch of Stop Syar Expansion said the county failed to place enough controls on the Syar mining operation, such as perimeter air quality monitors for pollutants and toxic materials. She wondered if this happened in part because some nearby neighborhoods don’t rank among Napa’s more upscale.
“If this mine was close to Browns Valley, you’d see a lot more controls and monitoring,” she said.
Skyline Wilderness Park is located adjacent to the Syar quarry. Napa County leases 850 acres from California for $100 annually and the nonprofit Skyline Park Citizens Association runs the park.
Some park advocates worry that the quarry expansion will bring noise and dust to a secluded part of the park near a popular trail. With the Board of Supervisors decision going against them, they are turning to the courts.
“There’s no protection for the park,” Skyline Park Citizens Association President Dorothy Glaros said. “What’s your choice?”
Syar is still evaluating the details of the lawsuits, attorney Jeff Dodd said Tuesday on behalf of the company.
“Preliminary review indicates the actions do not have any merits,” Dodd said. “Rather, they seem to be a last-ditch attempt to thwart the project. While it’s unfortunate, it doesn’t take away from the efforts of thousands of folks to protect the quarry and maintain job security for its hardworking employees.”
The quarry yields basalt that is used for the region’s road and building projects. Syar officials have said the quarry will run out of basalt – the primary component of asphalt—within a few months without the expansion, though it could remain open for a few years to allow mining of other rock.
Syar’s original expansion proposal in 2008 led to years of studies, revisions and controversy. Proponents said an expanded quarry would continue providing needed aggregate and jobs. Opponents said it would pollute the air and create a noisy nuisance with blasting operations.
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The dispute reached a climax this year, with the Board of Supervisors granting Syar a 35-year permit to expand a 497-acre quarry by 106 acres and increase production from one million tons annually to 1.3 million tons. The Board approved an environmental impact report saying all potential negative effects can, with steps, be rendered “less than significant.”
“We’re confident the project has been fully vetted,” attorney Tom Adams said on behalf of Syar at the final hearing.
Dodd said Syar could move into the expansion area next spring, as well as begin operating reclaimed asphalt pavement equipment allowed by the county approvals. For now, Syar is working with county officials and experts to set up the required monitoring for water, noise and other issues.
The Stop Syar Expansion lawsuit criticizes the environmental impact report’s analysis for air quality, noise and water supply. For example, it says that the document fails to adequately analyze health impacts from quarry dust that might contain crystalline silica, a carcinogen.
Mitigation for many impacts identified by the report relies on Syar doing self-monitoring and self-reporting, the lawsuit says, adding this arrangement fails to meet state requirements for “fully enforceable” measures.
The lawsuit asks for a court order requiring the county to vacate certification of the environmental impact report and the quarry expansion approval. It calls on the county to prepare a “legally adequate” environmental impact report.
Skyline Park Citizens Association filed a lawsuit that, among other things, says changing the open space of the expansion area to a non-agricultural use should require a vote of county residents under Measure P. It says the environmental report fails to adequately analyze groundwater demand by an expanded Syar.
Another recently filed lawsuit involves Syar quarry, one beyond the suits filed by Stop Syar Expansion and Skyline Park Citizens Association lawsuits against the county.
In addition, Stop Syar Expansion, Napa Vision 2050, Felch and Susanne Von Rosenberg jointly filed a lawsuit against Syar Industries. It alleges that dust, particulate matter, diesel engine exhaust and toxic contaminants from the quarry are a nuisance to nearby neighborhoods.
Proposition 65 requires businesses that expose people to carcinogens to provide a warning, such as posting signs and distributing notices. Syar has failed to do so since at least Aug. 25, 2013, the lawsuit says.
The lawsuit asks the court to order Syar to stop operating the quarry in the present manner without providing Proposition 65 notices to nearby residents. It also asks the court to fine Syar $2,500 per day for each Proposition 65 violation that the court finds occurred, as allowed under state law.