March 29, 2001 11:00 pm

By Alice Perry Linker

Observer Staff Writer

ISLAND CITY A new rock-crushing and cement-making operation will receive an air quality permit from Oregons Department of Environmental Quality, despite neighbors concerns about the dust level.

R.D. Mac has begun operating a rock quarry on McAlister Road near Gekeler Lane and is working under a temporary permit.

We will issue a permit, said Tom Hack, air quality specialist from the DEQs Pendleton office.

The statement came during a public hearing on the air quality permit. About 11 people attended Thursdays hearing at the Ag Services Center.

Hack said this morning the purpose of the hearing was to receive peoples concerns.

At this point, I didnt hear any comments that would get us to add additional requirements, he said. Most of the comments were about dust, and we already require dust suppression by watering.

Hack told the audience at the hearing that R.D. Mac was granted a temporary permit because owner Jay Collman did not realize that a new permit was needed for the new location.

We didnt want him going broke or losing thousands of dollars, Hack said.

People who live near the quarry expressed concerns about the high levels of dust caused when the topsoil is removed and about the possible loss of ground water.

One woman who lives near the Union County Airport said the water pressure in her home has been reduced since the quarry began operations. The Department of Geology and Mineral Industries regulates the impacts to water from mining.

During an information hour preceding the hearing, Hack said the particulate matter in the dust emissions will not affect the average persons health.

One person in the audience asked how the average health was determined and if age was considered in determining the average.

Do you want us to conduct a census? Hack said. Average is average.

Most health officials generally agree that the very young and the very old suffer the most from increased particulate matter in dust.

Deborah ORourke, who lives across the road from the quarry, testified that she suffers from asthma and expects the increased dust to cause her condition to worsen.

DEQ is supposed to be site-specific, she said If someones health is affected, youre supposed to recognize that, she said.

Several testified that the trees planted by R.D. Mac to help contain dust and reduce noise have died. When Union County approved the quarry, it required that two rows of trees be planted but did not specify a size.

T.L. Gandy, who lives on Gekeler Lane, testified that he has worked at a rock crusher.

There was emission, he said. There was no way we could keep dust from the people and the surrounding area.

Gandy and Richard McDaniel, who also lives near the operation, said that after the topsoil is removed from the quarry area, there will be nothing to keep the dust from blowing.

It will cause dust storms on the road, Gandy said. Theres already dust on the road.

McDaniel said he has extreme concerns about the extra amount of dust there. Crushing operations have been determined by the Supreme Court to be a nuisance, he said.

The air quality permit limits the amount of particulate that can be released and requires the quarry owner to inspect, monitor and maintain records about emission control.

Hack told the public hearing audience that complaints may be made directly to the DEQ and an unannounced inspection may follow. R.D. Mac must also follow county regulations and conditions of use.