Dust on Our Fruit and in Our Lungs – The Dangers of Gravel Pits

An excellent article in the Salt Lake Tribune on how the proliferation of gravel pits on the Wasatch Front is wiping out fruit orchards. The article is not about the health impacts of the dust, but Dr. Moench and Dr. Macfarlane, both on the UPHE’s board, are quoted in the article.

“It’s about as unscientific as anything you could apply to this situation,” says Brian Moench, president of Utah Physicians for a Healthy Environment. “The whole thing is slanted toward allowing these operators to do whatever they want.”

To reduce dust emissions, his group urges operators to use natural gas-powered trucks instead of diesel, to cover their loads, to clean trucks between trips, and to relocate mines to less windy and populous sites. Sand and gravel deposits can be found along 2,000 miles of Lake Bonneville’s ancient shorelines rimming the valleys of northern Utah, says John Macfarlane, a neurosurgeon on Moench’s board.

“If you go over a valley or two to the west, you can [mine] with much less effect because there is no local population,” Macfarlane says. “If they go a little farther away, they can still make their money, just not as much.”

The physicians group insists the Utah Department of Environmental Quality should do more to track dust emissions, conduct more frequent quarry inspections, and establish a hotline for residents to report dust incidents.

Read full article here.

The state should be doing significantly more to control gravel pit dust, from not approving every application for a pit and shutting down pits that are too close to urban areas, to more aggressive dust control and monitoring. The damage that dust is doing to tart cherries is also being done to people’s lungs. When Utah protects gravel pits over our food and health, you know our priorities are badly misplaced.

Can gravel mining and world-class cherry orchards coexist in Utah?

(Leah Hogsten | The Salt Lake Tribune) Hopper trucks leave the Keigley Quarry near acres of tart cherry orchards, Sept. 29, 2020. Residents and fruit growers living and working in close proximity to multiple sand and gravel quarries on West Mountain are concerned about their air quality and fruit production in this bucolic area near Payson.