|Unstable Richmond Quarries are
Threat to Public Safety
January 25, 2006
Recent inspections by the State Mining and Geology Board reveal that two large quarries in Richmond have unstable slopes and are in violation of both state law and local ordinances. One of the quarries is owned by Chevron and has unstable slopes that present a threat to adjacent tank farms. The other is on Canal Boulevard, and the fissures extend onto East Bay Regional Park Property in areas of frequent public access.
This information has become available only because of inspections and reports from the State Mining and Geology Board. The City of Richmond has jurisdiction over both quarries through a conditional use permit for the Canal Boulevard Quarry and through Richmond Municipal Code Chapter 12.46 SURFACE MINING AND RECLAMATION. Unfortunately, Richmond has been almost totally remiss and possibly negligent in not inspecting and enforcing its responsibilities. Richmond has apparently never had its mining ordinance certified by the State Mining and Geology Board, hence the state Board’s recent involvement.
Because of complaints from several citizens, as well as Richmond’s own port director (dust has damaged new cars parked at the Port’s vehicle import facility), I have been asking for a status report on apparent code violations at the Canal Boulevard Quarry since October 31, 2005. Only last week did I receive not a report but only a copy of the conditional use permit and related documents. I have reviewed those documents and formed the following conclusions.
Canal Boulevard Quarry:
On March 8, 1996, The Richmond City Council overturned on appeal an adverse Planning Commission decision on Conditional Use Permit CU 79-28 and Reclamation Plan RP 80-1 to modify and extend for eight years quarry activities at Canal Boulevard Quarry.
I am sorry to say that I joined McIntosh, Evans, Anderson, Bates and Griffin in voting for it because I believed that City staff would enforce the conditions, which didn’t happen.
The conditional use permit was to terminate upon the earliest of four events;
1. Completion of the final grading configuration, plus two years to complete final reclamation
2. Eight years from march 18, 1996, for active quarrying, plus two additional years to complete final reclamation
3. Completion of final reclamation, or
4. Revocation of the use permit, in which case final reclamation shall be complete no later than two years thereafter.
In any event, the latest termination would be March 18, 2004, and the completion of reclamation would have to be completed by March 18, 2006.
It is abundantly clear that many of the permit conditions have not been met, including 5 (periodic inspections), 9 (dust emission controls) and 15-16 (concurrent revegetation and reclamation).
In 2005, an inspection was conducted by the State Mining and Geology Board (2005 SMARA Mine Inspection, Point Richmond Quarry, CA ID #91-07-0007) and a report issued November 28, 2005.
The report notes that that when the inspection was made in October, 2005, “The operation serves as a material handling and recycling facility. Material extraction related activities have apparently ceased.”
The report also cited numerous violations of the permit and reclamation plan, including:
· Significant slope stability issues, including active slides, erosion, tension cracks and failure to construct a retaining wall. Some of the cracks extended onto adjacent property.
· Inadequate soil erosion control.
· No revegetation.
· Debris stockpiled on the site.
· Current topographic map not maintained
According to the report, there is a financial performance guarantee of $2,386,439 in the form of two letters of credit.
It is not clear who own the property at this time, although the southern portion is thought to be owned by ARCO and the northern portion by Richmond Quarry Products, Inc., or some interest of the Bottoms family. The site appears to have been leased to Bauman Landscape, Inc.
In any event, the CUP appears to have expired, and the current use is not one allowed in the CRR Zoning District. In an email dated November 22, 2005, Coy Charles (City of Richmond Code Enforcement Officer) noted that the current use was not allowable. The Port of Richmond has also been faced with claims from AWC for dust from the site damaging cars parked at the Point Potrero Terminal.
It appears that the City has been remiss for a number of years in not monitoring the operation and enforcing the terms of the CUP.
According to the State Mining and Geology Board report, there are a number of violations, to a reclamation plan that presumably was filed with the City of Richmond some time in the past (Reclamation Plan RP2, January 8, 1981 or October 8, 1980 or January 1991 – the report is ambiguous) and is supposed to be enforced by the City. The principal violation noted is unstable slopes that present a threat to the tank farms.
Corrective measures required include:
· Review by a geotechnical engineer and a proposed work plan for correction, including a revised reclamation plan.
· The reclamation plan dopes not reflect current operations (recycling) and requires update and clarification.
· The financial assurance plan needs to be re-evaluated to reflect analysis, mitigative and stabilization efforts, all mining related disturbance, reclamation and monitoring requirements, debris disposition and potential additional revegetation efforts.
I have personally noted that the principal vegetation observable on the outer side of the tank farm berm includes substantial pampas grass and fennel, both of which are in violation of Richmond’s weed abatement ordinance, RMC 9.50, see below. This is puzzling, because the report notes that a supplement to the reclamation plan was filed April 2005 that shows the “revegetation efforts performed to date as complete and fully reclaimed.”
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 consequences.
This would be disturbing enough by itself, except that in this case the public is in clear danger. What is the Chevron Quarry face came cascading down into the tank farm, rupturing tanks possible resulting in fires and explosions? Even minimally, there could be a gigantic petroleum spill into the soil and groundwater.
At the Canal Boulevard Quarry, unchecked erosion already blocks the Bay rail, and a scarp several feet high has developed on East Bay Regional Park Property in an area popular with hikers.
I am told by the city manager that the City is looking into all this, but so far we have seen no tangible evidence of any action.