DEQ investigating potential violations surrounding construction of Gannett Peak Estates

(Lander, Wyo.) – On Tuesday night approximately 20 residents from the Goodrich subdivision came to Lander City Hall to let the city council know about concerns of particle pollution and water quality issues regarding the construction of neighboring Gannett Peak Estates. In the process, everyone learned that the Wyoming Department of Environmental Quality has begun to investigate the situation.

Residents who live along Goodrich Drive, especially those whose homes back up to the construction, have experienced sizable dust storms coming from the construction. Susan Masson showed the Lander City Council photos of dusts that was coating the interior of hers and others’ homes. The dust in high wind reportedly gets through window cracks, and even around duct tape as well. “What we cannot show you in pictures is the time its taken to clean up after these storms,” she said.

Another resident reported that the ditch running through her back yard has slowed up with sludge. She thought the Army Corp of Engineers would be involved due to the wetland-type terrain involved. Councilman Cade Maestas said the Army Corp, prior to construction, declared it not their jurisdiction. Diane Oress, the engineer of record for the project, said there was a plan in place to deal with the storm water, but if things like that were happening the plan wasn’t followed completely.

The developer for the project, Steve Palmer, was not present, and no one spoke on his behalf. One of the contractors, Jeff Patrick, said he has done everything in his power to facilitate communication between neighbors and Palmer. However, Masson said the neighbors did not reach out to Palmer directly.

Lander-based WDEQ Air Quality employee Greg Meeker said that Palmer has been served a letter of violation regarding the dust. He said the regulations around air quality for this type of project does not require a permit, but the state does require action to minimize dust. Meeker said DEQ can’t tell the developer how to control the dust, only that it must. He added that he would be requiring a long-term action plan from Palmer and team. Seeding or crimped straw are among the ways the ground could be stabilized.

A 3-foot-high silt fence is in the works now to help with ground-level dust drifts. However, Patrick acknowledged that it won’t help with some of the 30-foot-high storms they’ve seen in recent months.

Additionally, Cheyenne-based WDEQ Storm Water Management employee Barb Sahl said the construction site did need a storm water permit, which was not on record until earlier this week. She said DEQ inspectors have begun looking at the site to see what kind of environmental impacts there have been and why the permit wasn’t filed before construction began 10 months ago. Sahl could not speak to a timeframe for the investigation or what type of penalties or action items might be required.

Property damage claims, like no-longer-working swamp coolers, would likely need to be handled in civil court, she told the residents.

One other action item came out of the meeting for the city. Through this situation, it has come to the city’s attention that it has no laws in place giving them any enforcement over development plans once they are approved by the Planning Commission. The city does have jurisdiction again once the homes begin to be built. Mayor Mick Wolfe and Councilmen Maestas and Dick Hudson all expressed interest in researching how to bridge this gap in the future. This was one of the requests made by the Goodrich residents.