People look out onto Mountain Loop Mine from the second floor hallway of Fairmount Elementary on Wednesday, Jan. 10, 2024 in Everett, Washington. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)

People look out onto Mountain Loop Mine from the second floor hallway of Fairmount Elementary on Wednesday, Jan. 10, 2024 in Everett, Washington. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)

Judge orders mining company to stop work next to Everett school

Despite demands to cease work next door to Fairmount Elementary, the company reportedly continued operations at its site.

EVERETT — A judge ordered OMA Construction to immediately cease work at its Everett Aggregate Yard on Thursday after Snohomish County argued the company continued parking, staging and dispatching trucks, despite a county emergency order calling for “all use and operations on the site” to stop.

The decision, signed by Snohomish County Superior Court Judge Millie Judge, arrives after a year of tension and frustration between OMA Construction and neighboring Fairmount Elementary School, where students and staff reported headaches, coughing fits and bloody noses they attributed to loud noise and dust from the yard.

Representatives of OMA contested accusations that work continued, arguing that parking company trucks did not require a permit or violate county regulations.

But after the county issued an emergency order Feb. 21, representatives of Fairmount Elementary and county staff witnessed workers do more than just parking vehicles at the yard at 2615 Center Road, documenting at least 10 instances of violations with photos and videos.

OMA is officially prohibited from using the site unless it obtains proper permits — something it hasn’t had since operations started at the yard last spring.

The company needs a land-disturbing activity permit from the county, as well as wastewater discharge and sand and gravel permits from the state Department of Ecology.

In the February emergency order, the county cited OMA’s noise violations. At full operation, the site generated between 59 and 90 decibels of sound, creating daily disturbances for students in Fairmount Elementary’s portable classrooms, about 50 feet from the aggregate yard.

“They’re refugees coming from war-torn countries, and they’re hearing the sounds back there,” teacher Melissa Reed told The Daily Herald on a previous visit to the school. “It scares them.”

Before the county issued the emergency order, OMA Construction Vice President Brandon Akers said the company had plans to build a noise wall along the site’s north boundary, claiming it would dampen noise by 40 decibels and contain dust. Still, Akers asserted operations weren’t emitting dust or exceeding county noise standards.

Last month, both the state Department of Health and Attorney General’s Office sent letters to Brian Farrell, project manager for the county’s Planning and Development Services. State officials ultimately recommended OMA Construction operate somewhere else, where a school or child care center wouldn’t be affected.

The existence of OMA’s Everett yard next to Fairmount Elementary is an environmental injustice, state officials said.

“By allowing the current noise levels without the proper mitigation,” the attorney general’s letter read, “it would exacerbate the inequality and injustice that the County should be aiming to fix.”

A week after the attorney general’s letter, the county filed its injunction, asking a judge to find the company in violation of county code.

OMA Construction did not respond to a request for comment Thursday afternoon.

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

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