By Kevin Opsahl
Kenmore residents held signs with the words “No Cadman emissions with wildfires” and shouted, “clean air!” during a rally on Aug. 8, asking Gov. Jay Inslee to halt asphalt production during poor air quality days.
The demonstration at the intersection of 68th Ave. N.E. and N.E. 181st St., came after Kenmore City Councilwoman Melanie O’Cain made a motion at a recent city council meeting asking the city to pen a letter to the governor to act. The letter was sent on Aug. 4.
“The combination of wildfire smoke and asphalt emissions is too much for our community to bear,” O’Cain said. “We need to do something.”
The letter referenced September 2020 when a massive plume of smoke from Oregon wildfires came upon Washington and created air pollution. This year’s wildfire season could also see similar activity, the letter stated.
Although the letter did not mention Cadman Materials, Inc., the company, which has an asphalt plant at 6431 N.E. 175th St., was the subject of ire from community members who demonstrated on Sunday.
The plant is under review from the Puget Sound Clean Air Agency (PSCAA) for its odors, emission levels, and the fact that it reportedly put in new equipment without seeking a permit from the agency. PSCAA said it does not comment on ongoing permitting and enforcement matters.
Kate Donaldson, who lives close to the plant, said how much she is affected by the plant’s fumes depends on the direction of the wind.
“My condominium fills with the stench, and it then permeates surfaces, towels, sheets, everywhere. It’s in my hair,” Donaldson said. “I have a chronic cough. I don’t know that it’s because of the fumes, but it certainly doesn’t help.”
When Patrick O’Brien, a candidate for fire commissioner, gets up in the morning, he knows the plant is in operation.
“My lungs hurt, my sinuses are plugged, my dogs are coughing,” he said. “I look out the window and here’s this plume coming out of the asphalt plant.”
O’Brien believes Cadman Materials is “showing criminal behavior” for not disclosing the chemicals forming from asphalt production, not notifying PSCAA of changes to the plant, and misrepresenting its activity on environmental safety checklists.
“They’ve survived because the state has enabled them to go unpunished,” O’Brien said. “The state should have shut them down and red-tagged them. This is a matter of human health, environmental health that these people violate daily in operation.”
Jeff Sieg, director of communications for LeHigh Hanson, Inc., a holding company that operates Cadman Materials, issued a statement via an email to Northshore News on behalf of the company when informed by the newspaper about the rally.
“Cadman is committed to operating in a safe and environmentally responsible manner and in compliance with all applicable regulations,” he stated. “As such, we understand concerns regarding air quality, but it’s important to note that the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency does not consider asphalt plants to be a major source of air pollution. Studies by other regulatory agencies have verified that emissions from asphalt facilities do not present an environmental or public health hazard.”