The view of Mountain Loop Mine out the window of a second floor classroom at Fairmount Elementary on Wednesday, Jan. 10, 2024 in Everett, Washington. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)

The view of Mountain Loop Mine out the window of a second floor classroom at Fairmount Elementary on Wednesday, Jan. 10, 2024 in Everett, Washington. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)

Accused of being bad neighbor, Everett mining company applies for permit

Mountain Loop Mine has operated next door to Fairmount Elementary without proper permits for months. Teachers are fed up.

EVERETT — After almost 10 months of friction between the company and its neighbor Fairmount Elementary School, the Mountain Loop Mine submitted a permit application to the county Wednesday afternoon.

Snohomish County’s Planning and Development Services learned last May that Mountain Loop Mine did not have the proper land disturbing activity permit. It became a major point of contention for Fairmount Elementary staff, who have reported dust and frequent industrial noises coming from the yard since it opened in 2023. The yard is south of Everett city limits at 2615 Center Road, about 50 feet from some classrooms.

The county extended a deadline multiple times for the company to submit permit materials, with the most recent deadline extension falling on Feb. 15.

County staff still need to review the application, a process that will likely take a few days, said county spokesperson Kent Patton.

Fairmount Elementary opened in 1952 in the Mukilteo School District.

The aggregate yard opened last spring.

At the yard, dump trucks load and unload mounds of gravel, rock and sand throughout the day. Teachers and students have reported headaches, bloody noses and coughing fits that they attribute to the dust and loud noises.

Mountain Loop Mine staff “have put a mitigation plan in place to also submit along with our permit application,” according to an email sent to Fairmount Elementary School Principal Bente Klatt on Feb. 9.

The email was forwarded to The Daily Herald by Brandon Akers, vice president of OMA Construction, the company that owns Mountain Loop Mine.

In the email, Akers said a structural engineer visited the Everett Aggregate Yard and plans to design a “noise wall” along the site’s north boundary. The engineer claimed the wall would decrease noise by 40 decibels, Akers said, “although to note, it appears we were previously in compliance for zoning.”

According to Mountain Loop Mine, a staff member regularly monitors dust and waters the yard. The company doesn’t believe it has “been omitting any dust from our operations,” Akers said, but added the new wall would “completely block any potential dust from blowing toward the school.”

Akers did not respond to a request for comment Wednesday afternoon.

The application comes nearly a month after attorney Lindsay Watkins, on behalf of Mountain Loop Mine, sent a cease and desist letter to Fairmount’s principal. The letter demanded school officials stop a “defamatory and inaccurate campaign against Mountain Loop Mine,” though at least one legal expert opined the demand was “inappropriate” and “a weird letter, just trying to threaten the district,” as quoted in The Seattle Times.

Mountain Loop Mine’s Everett Aggregate Yard had been inspected multiple times, Watkins wrote. Representatives from the Puget Sound Clean Air Agency and the state Department of Ecology visited the site in recent months.

“Though Mountain Loop Mine has been found in compliance and no citations were issued, these complaints continue with the apparent goal of harassing and interfering with Mountain Loop Mine’s business,” Watkins wrote in the letter.

The Herald was not able to reach Watkins for comment.

An operator from the Puget Sound Clean Air Agency found “no violations” of the agency’s regulations during a Jan. 31 site visit, according to a compliance status report Akers sent to The Herald.

Less than a week later, however, a specialist from the state Department of Ecology sent a warning letter to Akers and Mountain Loop Mine manager Mark Lytle.

The state Department of Ecology found the mine’s aggregate yard is discharging stormwater and “process water” without a waste discharge permit.

Ecology witnessed the company’s violations when a representative visited the mine’s yard last May. Mountain Loop Mine also submitted an incomplete sand and gravel general permit last June.

In the letter, Gretchen Onstad, a water quality compliance specialist with Ecology, said Mountain Loop Mine had 14 days to create a plan to prevent stormwater and process water discharge. Then it could reapply for a sand and gravel permit.

“Failure to maintain compliance … may result in formal enforcement action, including orders and penalties,” Onstad wrote.

Akers responded to the letter Tuesday, explaining staff have worked to prevent discharged water from leaving the site by pumping it into tanks. After resubmitting its land-disturbing activity permit, Mountain Loop Mine plans to reapply for a sand and gravel permit from Ecology, said Akers.

Fairmount Elementary does not have plans to respond to Mountain Loop Mine’s cease and desist letter, Mukilteo School District spokesperson Diane Bradford said this month.

Last month, Snohomish County Council members advised Fairmount to make daily noise complaints about the yard, if it continued to be a problem.

School leaders were unsure how the county wanted them to submit those complaints, so they’ve been tracking them internally.

From Jan. 22 to Feb. 8, teachers reported noise complaints “hourly” to school officials, Bradford said.

“It’s like a full-time job because it just keeps happening,” said Tory Kartchner, president of the Mukilteo Education Association, the union that represents school district employees.

This month, Kartchner said noise and dust continue to spur complaints and hamper learning at Fairmount.

He said: “It hasn’t gotten less bad.”

Ta’Leah Van Sistine: 425-339-3460; taleah.vansistine@heraldnet.com; Twitter: @TaLeahRoseV.

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