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Richmond Quarries Cited For Code Violations By SUZANNE LA BARRE

Tuesday February 21, 2006

Two Richmond quarries are a threat to public safety, a Richmond councilmember and a state agency both say.  

Routine inspections conducted by the State Mining and Geology Board (SMGB) late last year revealed numerous code violations at the sites, including dangerous sliding slopes, negligent revegetation and rehabilitation activities, and operation without a use permit. 

The board and the city of Richmond have entreated mine operators to come into compliance, but results have yet to surface. 


The Richmond (Chevron) Quarry 

One of the quarries, the Richmond (Chevron) Quarry, has a carved-out hill that is vulnerable to landslides and borders a field of potentially flammable tanks, said SMGB Executive Officer Stephen Testa. 

Richmond City Councilmember Tom Butt, who publicized the issue on his website last month, said he fears a rockslide plummeting into the tank farm could spell disaster. 

“I could imagine 1,000 tons of rock going down the hill, knocking over one of those tanks. It could be a huge mess,” he said. “It could explode.” 

Brian Peer, the general manager for site operator Dutra Materials, said such a scenario isn’t likely. 

“Talking to my engineering firm and engineers from Chevron [which owns the land], they agree the slope had moved a period of time ago, but now it’s stable,” he said. “As far as a cataclysmic slide, they said that’s not going to happen.” 

The quarry is used as an asphalt plant; mining activities no longer take place there. 

SMGB, the lead agency regulating Richmond’s mines, also found that the Richmond Quarry has not accurately revegetated the grounds. 

If not dealt with, the SMGB could slap Dutra with fines of up to $5,000 a day. 

The agency notified Dutra of the infractions on Dec. 22, 2005, and gave the company 30 days to heed board demands. So far, requirements have not been met, Testa said. 

“We’re working on it,” Peer said, adding that he didn’t receive written word of the violations until Jan. 4.  


The Point Richmond (Canal Boulevard) Quarry 

The other mine under fire has been cited for six violations and six corrective measures, Testa said. Among them: slope instability and active slides, inadequate revegetation, a dated topographic map and an expired use permit.  

The Point Richmond Quarry, also known as the Canal Boulevard Quarry, is maintained predominantly as a materials recycling facility by Bauman Landscape—though it does not have a permit to do so. 

Richmond’s planning department confirmed that Bauman Landscape is operating illegally. According to Butt, the city could levy fees as high as $1,000 a day.  

An owner for Bauman Landscape, Michael Bauman, did not return calls for comment.  

Both city and state agencies have notified the company of its breaches. “They have not complied to date,” Testa said. 

He added, however, that the company expended some energy cleaning up soil erosion and other small offenses. 


Taking action  

The state board will address operators of both quarries at its March 9 regular business meeting in Sacramento. There was some talk of moving the meeting to Richmond to allow for public input, but Testa said there are scheduling conflicts. 

The city is also taking action. Planning Director Richard Mitchell sent letters to Bauman and Dutra last week, urging cessation of illegal activity by March 1. In an e-mail, the Richmond city manager advised fellow staff members to be prepared to pursue “additional legal remedies against Bauman and Dutra” in the event that the companies fail to clean up their act.  


Mining for negligence 

Butt said he is pleased to see some progress made toward better enforcement of the quarries, but thinks the city should have been more proactive. The Richmond City Council granted the Point Richmond Quarry a land-use permit in 1996, but Bates said there was never any follow-up. He claims the state tried to communicate with city officials over the neglected areas as far back as 1998—though Testa could not confirm this—and that city staff knew about the latest batch of misdeeds five months ago. 

“This is another sad example of how Richmond all too often goes through a protracted process of approving some kind of land use permit and then simply disappears, allowing the permittee to do whatever he wants to without regulation or consequence,” he wrote online.  

Neither the city manager nor the planning director returned calls for comment.  

Butt said he is developing an ordinance to align the city with state mining standards. He plans to present a draft at Richmond’s Feb. 28 City Council meeting.