Company proposes gravel pit adjacent to Frenchtown High School
FRENCHTOWN, Mont. - Dozens of Frenchtown residents and businesses received a notice from the Department of Environmental Quality Thursday that a private company wants to build a gravel pit just north of Frenchtown High School.
The DEQ says they received an application from a company called Nelcon Heavy Highway Contractors out of Kalispell on June 1. The notice did not describe the purpose of the gravel pit.
Thursday's notice to the public indicated the proposed site would sit immediately behind Frenchtown High and Junior High School's track and football fields on a piece of private land identified as the "Alexander site."
Frenchtown Schools Superintendent Randy Cline says the proposed lot sits right next to the school district's main water well beside a 17-acre patch of land the school owns for future expansion. Cline says Thursday was the first he heard of the project' and he has several concerns regarding timing, safety and pollution.
"I think right now, they picked the worst location possible," he said. "Do I really want student vehicles and our buses competing with gravel trucks driving down a road that is already heavily congested in the morning and afternoon?"
Cline believes a gravel pit will create noise and dust pollution and negatively impact students, staff and athletes who use the fields.
He added the school gets its drinking water from a well right near the proposed pit lot.
"What impact would this have? Because we know in this area there is a really low water level (already). I've heard that you can strike water after drilling for 10 feet," he said.
About a dozen homes sit just adjacent to the proposed lot. NBC Montana contacted nearly every household on Hodown Lane and Pinckney Court, which surround the lot. The homeowners wanted to learn more before making a comment but said their initial reaction was not in favor of a gravel pit.
Cline is now trying to get the public involved. He said he reached out to the Missoula Board of County Commissioners Thursday and requested a public hearing with the DEQ.
The DEQ says they need a certain percent of adjacent property owners to agree to a public hearing before it can happen. The DEQ told NBC Montana they need at least 13 property owners to submit a request for a hearing in this case.
"I understand that it is private property, but at the same time there is a lot of different considerations here," Cline said.
Thursday's notice indicated all requests for public hearings must be submitted before July 9. The notice indicates the operation could begin as early as July 15 and last about 10 years, if a public hearing is unsuccessful.
The DEQ says they have quick turnaround deadlines for these types of permit applications.
Frenchtown resident Culp Roberts echoed Cline's concerns about noise and dust pollution. "I know a guy who had a gravel pit and had issues with dust and stuff. He ended up having to do a lot of mitigating of the dust problem by getting water trucks and keeping the dust down," he said.
NBC Montana reached out to Nelcon for comment. They directed us to the DEQ. The DEQ says the scientists on the project were out of the office Thursday and Friday and were therefore unable to provide detailed information about the permit application and purpose of the pit.
You can read the entire notice here and find the form to request a public hearing on the last page.
You can submit that request to:
DEQ Opencut Mining Program P.O. Box 200901 Helena, MT 59620
You can also fax the request to (406) 444-4988 or email it to DEQOpencut@mt.gov.