Renton City Council president raises concerns about proposed SR 169 asphalt plant | Letters

On Feb. 9, Renton City Council President Valerie O’Halloran expressed concerns that she and council colleagues have about the proposed asphalt plant site on State Route 169, adjacent to the Cedar River.

By Renton City Council President Valerie O’Halloran

The Renton City Council is committed to our Business Plan statement to “support planned growth and influence decisions to foster environmental sustainability.” To that end, we agree that the recycling of any product or material is an important aspect of sustainability. Asphalt production and recycling are no exceptions, so we trust that King County will work on appropriately siting such a facility in our region and mitigating its impacts.

We do, however, disagree with the county’s decision to permit the siting of Lakeside Industries’ proposed asphalt plant along the Renton-Maple Valley Road (SR 169) in unincorporated King County, immediately outside our city’s jurisdictional boundary.

We appreciate that the SEPA Threshold Determination included many mitigation measures such as safety redundancies, soil and groundwater protections, and noise-reducing plans as a condition of permit issuance. We are, however, disappointed that it does not adequately address the geology and naturally occurring events such as flooding, erosion, landslides and earthquakes at that location. While it is recognized that the site is 150 feet away from the Cedar River, not recognized as it is adjacent to recent landslides, is downhill from abandoned mine shafts and erosion-risk zones, and is within the impact zone of the Seattle Fault Line just to the north. The geology of the location would have been addressed in an Environmental Impact Statement (EIS). However, it was determined that an EIS wasn’t necessary.

We are also concerned about the impact hundreds of weekly truck trips will have at the already congested intersection of SR 169 and I-405. This increased congestion will cause more traffic diversion onto our city surface streets and through our neighborhoods. After extensive review by city staff, a detailed analysis of these potential impacts was provided to King County Permitting and Environmental Review in a June 2018 letter from Renton’s Public Works department administrator. We would request that traffic mitigation planning include the Washington Department of Transportation, which controls the major impacted arterial intersections in the immediate area.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency describes typical asphalt plant emissions to include a long list of pollutants that are carcinogenic, and contribute to global warming, acid rain, birth defects, and acute and chronic illnesses. These emissions must be mitigated. To do so, the City of Berkeley, California, as one example, has cited Berkeley Asphalt multiple times for violating Air Pollution Control standards and among other actions, has required the plant to enclose the asphalt truck loading area to control emissions, dust, and pollutants from entering the air during the loading process.

A truck-loading enclosure should be a fundamental requirement for any facility of this type. The Renton City Council is surprised that the construction drawings for Lakeside Industries’ proposed plant include the workup of all the other buildings, but have no reference to the truck loading area, other than a call-out on page 223 that notes “truck loading enclosure to be under separate permit.” Building permits are often phased, but in this case, the permit and construction of this important enclosure should be required, and should be issued concurrent with other building permits, and no buildings should be used prior to the issuance of occupancy permits for this enclosure.

Citizens to Stop the SR 169 Asphalt Plant, a group known as Save the Cedar River, appealed King County’s permit decision to the state Environmental and Land Use Hearings Office’s Shoreline Hearings Board. In that hearing, the geological complexities of the proposed location were discussed. The hearing commenced in November and concluded in December 2022. The Board has 180 days to make its decision.

These are just a few of our concerns. Renton City Council remains hopeful for a positive outcome, namely the reversal of the permit siting the facility at the currently proposed location. However, unfortunately, neither the city nor our city council have any jurisdiction or any legal recourse in the matter.

Valerie O’Halloran

Renton City Council President