Clark County board nixes appeal of permit for asphalt plant

The Clark County Air Pollution Control Hearing Board on Thursday denied an appeal of an air quality permit for a second asphalt plant near Spring Valley High School.

During a six-hour hearing, Clark County School District general counsel Carlos McDade squared off against representatives from the county’s Department of Air Quality and Wells Cargo, the construction company seeking to open the plant.

In December, the county approved a permit that will allow Wells Cargo to open a second asphalt plant and produce 1.25 million tons of asphalt a year. The school district last month appealed the air quality permit.

County staff testified Thursday that they believe pollutants from the two plants won’t exceed National Ambient Air Quality Standards set by the EPA as required by the Clean Air Act.

Spring Valley High Principal Tam Larnerd said the numbers don’t matter to him. Every day he sees students breathing in dust airborne from the operations of the existing plant located at the corner of Spring Mountain Road and Tenaya Way.

“We are simply asking don’t expand,” he said during the hearing. “Enough is enough.”

McDade added that county projections aren’t enough to quell fears of health concerns.

“Our contention is all of this is based on mathematical modeling,” he said after the hearing. “We just want to know if there’s any health impacts on the students and faculty.”

To make his case, McDade pointed to results from air quality monitoring the Clark County School District conducted inside the high school for more than two weeks late last year. The study found notable maximum readings were taken of gases and coarse particulate matter.

But county staffers said the high indoor readings could be caused by a number of factors unrelated to the asphalt plant, including the school’s air-conditioning system, cleaning supplies and even perfume.

“The results of the district’s testing are ambiguous at best,” said Mike Sword, a county Air Quality Planning Division manager.

Board vice-chair Evan Wishengrad agreed. He noted some of the testing occurred over the Thanksgiving holiday, when the plant likely was not in operation.

“There’s no way we could correlate your readings with the operations of this facility especially given the time parameters of when these tests were done,” he told McDade.

McDade requested that the county install air quality monitoring equipment on or near Wells Cargo’s operations, but county staff said that was not permitted under their rules.

In the end, the law is the law, Deputy District Attorney Leslie Nielsen said.

“We understand the concerns of the neighborhood, we understand the concerns of the schools, but all we have to go by unfortunately are the (National Ambient Air Quality Standards),” she said. “And if the NAAQS are not exceeded we think it’s reasonable to conclude that the health impacts to the community are in acceptable levels.”

Wells Cargo still must receive the County Commission’s OK to build the new asphalt plant. A public hearing has not yet been scheduled on the topic.

Contact Michael Scott Davidson at sdavidson@reviewjournal.com or 702-477-3861. Follow @davidsonlvrj on Twitter.

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