VOICES: Joseph Orozco on the Asphalt Plant

Dear Two Rivers Tribune,

I will miss the General Meeting due to business travel obligations.  I am glad to read some people still question the asphalt operations.  Always ask questions.  Here are some questions that come to my mind.

What was your reaction the first time you noticed the smoke from the asphalt plant?

Were you physically affected?

Did you ask others what they saw or sensed?

Did anyone tell you how they were affected?  What did they say?

Did you seek local medical assistance?  Do you know others who did?

Were you told that what you smelled was diesel fuel emissions and that toxic elements have no odor and are micro-elements too small to be seen?  Were you told what you saw was stream and diesel exhaust?

Were you told that an electric powered burner would fix the smell issue?

Who did you ask for explanations?

Do you believe that the possible negative effects were explained well?

Did you ask what was in the smoke?

What is in the “Blue Smoke” that comes from the mix and is dispersed in the air during truck loading and off the truckloads as they travel down the roads?

Were you told that toxic elements possibly released were being addressed?

Asphalt is a petroleum by-product called bitumen. Were you told about the possible toxin capacity of heating asphalt to a “Hot-Mix”?

Does CalTrans still recommend the Hot-Mix asphalt for its newer contracts?

What age groups are most affected by asphalt fumes and vapors?

Were you told of possible harmful effects to Endangered Species?  Were you told that aquatic species are extremely sensitive to potential toxic releases, spills or escapements?

Why is the asphalt plant next to the river?

Can the waste water drain or leach back into the aquifer?

Can asphalt plants catch fire?  If so, what are the dangers?

Is there an evacuation plan in place for the immediate area that may be affected by an asphalt plant fire?

Are local fire departments prepared to handle an asphalt plant fire?

What toxic elements are in the waste by-product from the unused asphalt and the used water that is stored at the site pond?

Is there adequate insurance coverage for property damage and public liability?

Who is named as the liable party for claims of property or health damages?

Is there a signed contract between the Hoopa Valley Tribal Council and the Tide Water Asphalt Company and its owners that holds the tribe liable for financial, personal, medical, mechanical, environmental damages due to the operation of or the prevention of the operation of the Tide Water asphalt project?  If so, ask to read it.

What is a safe and sensible distance residential homes should be from an active portal asphalt Hot-Mix operation?

Are asphalt spills easy to clean up?

Does “Bag” filtration remove all toxic dangers?  What scientific proof backs up such a claim?

Does any stored waste pose any health effects?  If so, what mitigating actions are in place?

How much clean water is used to operate an asphalt plant?  What happens with the water after it’s cycled through the plant process?

If water vapors that contain toxic micro elements are released in the air during non-inversion times, where does the condensed vapor contact ground or water?  Who is held responsible for such exposure?

Where did you seek further information about the pros and cons of asphalt plant operation?

Did your research include communities that had previous negative experience?

How did their experience compare to what you experienced?

Did you believe what you were told?

What questions do you have now?

Joseph R. Orozco, Hoopa

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June 20th, 2014


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