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)

Mining company ordered to stop work next to school south of Everett

After operating months without the right paperwork, OMA Construction applied for permits last week. The county found it still violates code.

EVERETT — After Mountain Loop Mine operated for almost 10 months without permits, Snohomish County ordered all operations at the company’s Everett site to stop Wednesday, adding tension to an already fraught relationship with the neighboring elementary school.

Since last spring, Fairmount Elementary School staff and children have reported headaches from constant scraping and banging, as a revolving door of dump trucks load and unload mounds of gravel, rock and sand at the yard about 50 feet from some classrooms.

Many teachers said students have also experienced bloody noses and coughing fits they attributed to dust from the Everett Aggregate Yard.

In the emergency order, Snohomish County Planning and Development Services said the aggregate yard at 2615 Center Road violates standards from county code relating to noise.

Staff at OMA Construction submitted an application last week for a land disturbing activity permit. But Snohomish County proceeded to file a notice of violation on the site Wednesday, stating the yard is still not in compliance with county code.

The yard is zoned as a “BP,” or business park. County staff visited the site earlier this month and noticed operations violated county standards on landscaping and uncovered storage, in addition to the noise. The county issues emergency orders when sites or structures endanger public or private property, create an immediate hazard or threaten the health and safety of the public, according to the document given to OMA Construction.

Staff at OMA Construction have 14 days to appeal the emergency order.

Mountain Loop Mine staff will halt operations at the Everett site immediately, OMA Construction Vice President Brandon Akers confirmed in an email Wednesday afternoon. He verified the company plans to appeal the emergency order.

Akers previously told Fairmount Principal Bente Klatt in an email that the company had an engineer design a “noise wall” along the site’s north boundary. The engineer claimed the wall would decrease noise by 40 decibels, Akers said.

But, he argued in his email, “it appears we were previously in compliance for zoning.”

Last month, attorney Lindsay Watkins, on behalf of Mountain Loop Mine, sent a cease and desist letter to Fairmount’s principal. Watkins wrote there was “no basis” to the school’s concerns and demanded school officials stop a “defamatory and inaccurate campaign against Mountain Loop Mine.”

The state Department of Ecology sent a warning letter this month to Akers and Mountain Loop Mine manager Mark Lytle, as well.

Back in May, Ecology staff found the mine’s aggregate yard was discharging stormwater and “process water” without a waste discharge permit. And Mountain Loop Mine submitted an incomplete sand and gravel general permit to Ecology last June.

Akers responded to Ecology, explaining staff have worked to prevent discharged water from leaving the site by pumping it into tanks.

He said Mountain Loop Mine would reapply for a sand and gravel permit, though staff can only do so after receiving its land disturbing activity permit from the county.

Tory Kartchner, president of the Mukilteo Education Association, hopes the emergency order will provide some relief for staff and students at Fairmount.

For months, members of the school district sought assistance from the county, confused about why Mountain Loop Mine was allowed to operate without proper permits.

Fairmount Elementary opened in 1952. The aggregate yard opened last spring.

Referring to the stop order, Kartchner said, “I just hope the process is followed.”

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

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