Public Comment Period Open on Mercer-Fraser Asphalt Batch Plant in Dinsmore


mercer-fraser dinsmore

Google satellite image of the Mercer-Fraser property alongside the Van Duzen River on Highway 36 just east of Dinsmore, CA

Mercer-Frasier has published notice to the public that the company applied to the North Coast Unified Air Quality Management District (NCUAQMD) for a permit to operate “hot mix asphalt plant,” generally referred to as a ‘batch plant,’ in Dinsmore, CA.

Patty Clary, the Executive Director of California for Alternatives to Toxics, is concerned about NCUAQMD issuing permanent approval.  Clary argues that because Dinsmore sits in a small and deep valley, where the mountains soar a thousand feet above the valley floor that is only a half mile wide, that this location may be more prone to air quality degradation than most places.  Clary expressed fear for the air quality of people living there and said similar operations in places such as Hoopa and Longvale have led such poor air quality that residents were forced to avoid outdoor activity.

Mercer-Frasier is a general engineering contracting firm established in Humboldt County in the 1870’s.  Mercer-Fraser is known for engineered construction projects such as bridges, sea walls and roads.  It owns many quarries and other industrial properties.  The application currently on file with the air quality district relates to their site on the Van Duzen River east of the Dinsmore Market, just yards into Trinity County on Highway 36.

Speaking with Jason Davis, Permits & Planning Division Manager, at the NCUAQMD, he explained that Mercer-Frasier has had a batch plant on that site that runs an average of three or four months in every two year period, and that the batch plant has been there for at least two decades.  Davis explained that Mercer-Frasier upgraded their equipment in a manner that triggered the need for a new Best Available Control Technology (BACT) permit for Stationary Source emissions.

To meet State recommendations, Mercer-Fraser’s batch plant at Dinsmore will now include ground tires, referred to by the industry as “crumb rubber.”  Using crumb rubber is strongly encouraged by CalTrans.  CalTrans’ Office of Pavement Programming has two primary functions:  to implement the Ten Year State Highway System Management Plan and to prepare the Annual Crumb Rubber Usage Report.  CalTrans promotes the crumb rubber to divert several million tons of used tires away from landfills.  Although CalTrans does not appear to study the safety differences of pavement in which crumb rubber has been used for a portion of the aggregate, acadamic papers such as A Review on Using Crumb Rubber in Reinforcement of Asphalt Pavement by Nuha Salim Mashaan, et al published in the Scientific World Journal in 2014 shows rubberized pavement does offer additional benefits such as reducing damage to pavement caused by freezing and reducing the danger to drivers from hydroplaning and skidding.

According to industry journals, getting the asphalt and the rubber to bond to one another means adding polymer class chemicals, that were previously unnecessary, to the asphalt mixture while heating it to 375 degrees, well past the boiling point at 212 degrees, which encourages atmospheric release of chemicals and odors.

Davis said Mercer- Frasier has been running a hot batch operation on the property under a temporary permit and this filing will make it a permanent  arrangement according to Davis.

Clary, the Executive Director of California for Alternatives to Toxics, acknowledged the benefits of adding rubber to the pavement mix, however, she argues that since batch plant operations are only needed occasionally when the local roads are being resurfaced, temporary permitting by NCUAQMD would better ensure that Mercer Frasier did not use inadequate or under-performing equipment, but instead would be obligated to invest in the latest technology for keeping the air resources clean.  Clary said, “They need to spend and invest in our air quality even if it means cutting into their bottom line.”

Davis, at the NCUAQMD said that he had not yet checked in with the enforcement department at the NCUAQMD and could not say offhand whether there have been air quality complaints made to his agency since Mercer-Fraser began using the new batch plant equipment under the temporary permit on Highway 36.  Davis did say the analysis by Trinity County Planning Department indicated this application by Mercer-Fraser would not require an “ambient air quality dispersion analysis” because the batch plant is considered a “minor source” of air pollution that is unlikely to “significantly degrade” air quality.

Davis explained that if the NCUAQMD were to consider having Mercer Fraser prepare the asphalt in Fortuna or another site, that the air quality impacts of trucking the mix would have to be added to the list of factors impacting the air.  And he also said that thermal inversion layers that cause air to be trapped in valleys tend to happen in cold weather whereas paving activity needs to happen in warm weather to prevent the asphalt from solidifying in the equipment before it can be applied to the road.

The North Coast Unified Air Quality Management District Board is accepting letters from the public until 5pm on Wednesday, December 12th.  The public notice includes the following instructions for submitting public comment, “To be considered, written comments must be received prior to 4:00 p.m.December 12, 2018

The Board “will review and consider all comments prior to taking final action on the application for a permit. Documents are available for inspection at the District offices during normal business hours -Monday through Friday 9:00 a.m. to 12:00 p.m. and 1:00 p.m. to 4:00 p.m.  Information is also posted on the District website at  Should you have a question or require additional information contact Jason Davis at (707) 443-3093 or

Public comments concerning this permit may be submitted to:

North Coast Unified Air Quality Management District

Attn: Mercer-Fraser ATC#001063-1

707 L Street

Eureka, CA 95501”

Jason Davis added that the District really values feedback and emphasized that all comments are read and considered in the decision making process.








    • We need the asphalt! Trinity and Humboldt county has let their roads go to shit, and we need the asphalt to repair these roads. They have been making asphalt there for years, I worked for Trinity DOT and got lots of mix from them. These road depts are run by inept and weak people who do not do their jobs in repairing these roads. Criminal really. Let’s look to our friends in France, who are going after the govt in the correct way, by shutting them down until they do their jobs. It is working in France, they stopped the bull shit greens from taxing them more, and took away the recent increase the greenies tried to impose. Punks like Steyer and his buddies want to tell us how to live. But they do not live the way they want us to. They fly all over the place, at 17 gallons of fuel a minute. They own multiple homes, huge ones, which use far more energy than we do in our hovels. They are not vegan. A person living in a high rise in the city creates much more pollution, uses far more energy than those of us who live in these small villages. make the asphalt, get these roads repaired, or the yellow jackets will start here.

      • Since the yellow jackets are protesting policies that hit lower-income families while protecting the wealthy, there’s no way they’d support a plant that could degrade water and air quality for rural families and tribes.

    • Crumb rubber sucks i live in a area the road been paved with crumb rubber i mean its allright till it rains then when its wet its so slick i dont even like to drive on it crumb rubber is very dangerous and should not be used its just a way to make old tries disappear i mean if thar going to use it use it on like I-5 or some highway that is straight

  • I would like to note that the asphalt plant was not up & running this year until after the inversion layer (remember the smoke from the fires?) had changed. We do not know yet how this will affect our area in that way. After next summer’s permanent paving on the construction might be a better time for a comment period, when we will have a better idea what we are commenting on.

  • Or we could study up so we can better grasp what we are getting into, rather than learn the hard way.

  • Well, I would like to state categorically, that hot asphalt does not smell wonderful.

    Why does this company want to put ugly factories, that stink, in beautiful places?

    If I lived in Carlotta, Hydesville, or Fortuna, “The Friendly City that hates everyone”, I doubt that I would enjoy the odor of this operation!

    How much “Hot Asphalt” is actually used in Humboldt, the county that can’t afford to fix the roads, anyway?

    This is the wrong idea, in the wrong place, and, probably the wrong people in charge…

    • Wait a minute – we’re going to smell the stench of a Dinsmore asphalt plant in Carlotta? Oh hell NO.

      Lemmie go back and read the lengthy article of doom for a permit by a bored Board that we didn’t elect to create problems and then pretend to solve them.

    • There’s already asphalt plants in fortuna and Carlotta……..

  • The article says the plant has been there for 20 years. The reason a new permit is being required is that the State has wanted crumb rubber be added to the mixture and that means adding another chemical to get it to adhere and a new chemical requires a new permit.

    It seems as of the requirement the State to get rid of volumes of worn tires by requiring it to be added to asphalt is the issue, so why not get the State to remove the requirement? It seems hard on a business encourage a product be used then require them to get a new permit because of it.

    • Thank you guest for the narrative. I can’t bring myself to read permit Code crap.

      What has the “State” done for you (or me) lately?

      If we go to Sacramento and throw open the doors of the Legislature, will we find the State?

    • >”The article says the plant has been there for 20 years. ”

      Been there a lot longer than 20 years… maybe 50, 60… (or more) years.
      Used to be next to the Lumber Mill at Dinsmore. Lumber mill closed in the
      late 70’s or early 80’s.

      >”Why does this company want to put ugly factories, that stink, in beautiful places?”

      Ok. It was put there to supply asphalt and gravel to build and maintain the roads.
      Otherwise they have to truck materials a long… long… distance.
      It would make building/repairing the roads massively expensive.
      Then, I guess you’d probably complain about the gravel trucks.

      >”How much “Hot Asphalt” is actually used in Humboldt, the county that can’t afford to fix the roads, anyway?”

      You (obviously) haven’t been here long enough to know what ‘shape’ the roads were in 50-60 years ago.
      Hwy 36 is mostly ‘new’. Last stretch of 1-1/2 lane is being replaced west of Dinsmore.
      Bridgeville to Larabee Valley is mostly new (or was). South Fork Mountain to Hayfork is all new. (or was),
      Ruth Lake is new. (or was)… etc etc.

      >”This is the wrong idea, in the wrong place, and, probably the wrong people in charge…”

      (Sighs). I wish the roads could go back in time 60 years… and all the people
      that came to Humboldt since then… leave.

      • Of course Hwy. 36 is kept up like the Autobahn, it’s the main road for the parade of logging trucks.

      • Central Humboldt… the log trucks are no longer a ‘parade’ since the Twin Harbors and the PL mills closed, loooong ago. More like ‘Growdozers’.
        Bozo… my question would be how much would this plant be in use with the new, permanent permit? Only when there is a job in the immediate area? That would be one thing. For yearly, season long jobs all around Humboldt & Trinity counties? That would be quite another.
        The statement in the article that the thermal inversion layer tend to occur more in cold weather is incorrect. The smoke from summer wildfires, near & far, has shown that to all who live here. We haven’t been able to work outside in August for 3 consecutive years… and on many other occasions previous to that.

  • Disgusting supervisors

    What about the salmon !!!!! Lol. Rite next to the river, how come fish and Wildlife isnt raidind mercer fraiser and apposing massive fines on them???? Oh thats rite mercer fraiser has payed off the b.o.s. already with campaign contributions. Once again the board of supervisors are a slithering,slimy, batch of corrupt scumbags !!!!!!

    • I agree. However, i don’t know if the Supes. have let us down, or we have let them down. Out of an average of 136,000 people, how many show up at public meetings on a regular basis? Three? Two?

      Learn the game and play it better than they can.

      • If they met in the evening, instead of 9 a.m., more people could show up.

        • Yeah, that changed two years ago next month when Bass – once again – took over as Chair. Without motion, second or any consideration whatsoever, she waltzed in on the 4th of January and said, “We’re going to do things a little different, Public Comment will be at 9:00 a.m.” The following Tuesday, the public comment time was switched again, to, AFTER the uncustomary Consent Calendar and the presentations. We always had a definite time before – 1:30. I’ve been there when, believe it or not, the whole show was over in ten minutes!

          Blanck immediately saw where Public Comment before the Consent Calendar would lead.

          Evening would be sooo much better at a set time – as it should be. The Eureka City Council are much more giving and attentive.

  • The plant is located directly down river from the school, medical clinic and the entire neighborhood on Van Duzen Rd. When they do any work that causes dust and odors of any kind, the winds in the valley blow it over the entire neighborhood. You can see the dust in the air and it does make you cough. We do need the products the plant produces but they need a better way to mitigate the dust problem. They may of been here 20 years but lots of the locals have been here longer.

    • Close to a school? Is their next permit for the pot lab that they pulled the request for in Willow Creek?

    • They want to do something new: mixing asphalt with rubber. To do that, they have to heat it more (which means more possible fumes), and add a chemical additive to hold it together. The additive is listed as dangerous to water even in small quanitites, and the process releases hydrogen sulfide.

      Additionally, the permit lists a 30.000 gallon storage tank for heated oil.

      What concerns me isn’t just the site of the plant, but the tanker trunks that will be driving back and forth on the 36 with toxic chemical additives that could wreck the watershed. It seems like there’s an accident on the 36 every day. Why not put the new plant in Redding or at the 36/101 junction, where any accident or issue could be contained more quickly?

  • Jason Davis of the Air Quality District is quoted that this is an upgrade of the old plant but that actually has not operated for many years and will likely be required to be dismantled and hauled away. The proposed permit is for authority to construct a “new” plant (actually used mobile equipment that is hauled from job to job and probably will not be left at Dinsmore permanently) is different because it adds a crumb rubber process and extra toxic chemicals to the mix. Mercer-Fraser’s reputation for stinking up neighborhoods with odor and smoke (look online for Friends of Outlet Creek photos and videos of M-F’s emissions while operating at the Grist Creek Aggregates site north of Willits) doesn’t bode well for the community around the Dinsmore plant. Two things people should ask for: 1. Use of first quality equipment especially pollution control techniques and 2. issuance of a 90-day temporary permit to get the job done this summer and that can be renewed if M-F wants to fire up again in the future, rather than this open-ended permit of unlimited time and up to 250,000 tons of asphalt per year.

    • I really like informative comments offering suggestions and solutions for consideration.

    • Thank you for this information.

    • Patty, I believe this may all refer to the new plant they have recently assembled for the Federal project ongoing on Highway 36 on Buck Mtn. They have been placing temporary (for the winter) paving since last month.
      This project will continue through the winter with full closures resuming in spring through July or August. That will be year 3 of construction following 1 year of logging at the 4 mile construction site.
      Do you know how we can make sure the plant currently meets those standards? I am not sure Ca. State standards need to be met on a Federal project.

  • and where pray tell are the eis on this crumble and the chemicials used to bond them as they degrade and wash into our streams where our fish eat them and we drink the water ? instead of having mountians of tires in areas where run off can be managed we chew them up and scatter them all over the place adding more toxicons as we go … yep it is the grows killing the fish …..

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