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Kenmore residents win more regulations for asphalt plant after decades of fighting

The Puget Sound Clean Air Agency is requiring the asphalt plant to comply with 29 conditions, including air monitoring, emissions limitations and complaint response.

KENMORE, Wash. — It's a victory for people fighting for clean air along Lake Washington.

A community at the north end of the lake has been choking on fumes from a nearby asphalt plant for decades. Now, after years of fighting, changes are on the way for the better.

Dakota Rash has been running along the north end of Lake Washington since he was on the cross-country track team in high school.

The young environmentalist remembers neighbors complaining about fumes from the waterfront asphalt plant.

"They've been talking about this issue for a very long time," he said.

The Cadman asphalt plant has been operating on the north shore of Lake Washington since 1972.

Smelly emissions from its stacks have been an ongoing issue. Cadman has maintained the releases are simply steam, but no one's really sure.

In 2020 Dakota, then an aspiring attorney uncovered the fact that the company has been operating largely under the radar of regulators for decades.

Since then, a dedicated bunch of neighbors has been asking why and getting answers.

"This facility was grandfathered to a time when there were essentially no regulations or standards for operating," said David Morton, an advocate for the Kenmore residents.

Janet Hays said the impacts of the air pollution have been significant.

She has lived downwind from the plant for 19 years and claims fumes are so bad on some days they don't just burn her eyes -- she can actually taste them.

"You taste it in the back of your throat," she said. "I now have a condition in my esophagus that I didn't have when I moved in here."

After at least three years of protests, this week the Puget Sound Clean Air Agency issued an order commanding Cadman to adhere to 29 conditions including air monitoring, emission limitations and complaint response.

"It's a huge leap forward," said Dakota. "It's real progress."

Dakota, now a lawyer with the Washington State Attorney General's Office, said he is proud his community has finally been able to "clear the air" -- with better days coming down the trail.

"The moral of the story is, speak up. Keep ringing those alarm bells. Keep talking about the issues you see in the world especially when it comes to the environment because eventually you're gonna be heard and justice will be done," Dakota said.

KING 5 reached out to Cadman Asphalt for comment, but calls were not returned by publication time.

The company is appealing the decision but must begin implementing those 29 changes immediately or face fines and potential criminal charges.

A hearing for the appeal is scheduled for Nov. 27.

How to file an air quality complaint: 

Those with air quality concerns can report them to Puget Sound Clean Air Agency. 

To file a complaint by mail or over the phone, have the following information ready: 

  • Date and time of the incident
  • If it is ongoing
  • Address of the incident including city and zipcode
  • Who you think is responsible
  • Your contact information including name, address and daytime phone number

To file a phone complaint, call the air quality complaint line at 800-552-3565.

To file a complaint online, visit the Puget Sound Clean Air Agency's website.


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