LETTER: Physician Warns of Adverse Health Effects of Proposed Gravel Pit


As a physician and resident living near the proposed ACA gravel pit at 14110 CR 140, I am writing to express concern for the health effects that it will have on Chaffee County residents who will breathe the dust and diesel exhaust from this operation.

Dust from surface mining operations produces airborne pollution including crystalline silica that can cause lung cancer, silicosis, COPD, kidney and autoimmune diseases; increase susceptibility to infections like TB; and increase hospitalizations for heart disease. The dust from gravel mining may also contain toxins such as heavy metals and radon, both of which cause cancer.

Dust and toxins can travel hundreds of miles, but the proximity to existing and future Chaffee County residents make the proposed gravel pit site an unacceptable health hazard. Fugitive particulate emissions, air pollutant emissions, and visible emissions will be produced, and even if these emissions are within the allowable limits of state regulations, the potential health effects will not be eliminated.

Dust landing on the property and homes of nearby residents will be stirred up during daily activities, thus magnifying the health consequences particularly for children and babies in utero. Because of greater physical activity, higher metabolic rates, and hand-to-mouth actions, young children will be more exposed than adults via both inhalation and ingestion. Exposure of pregnant women living nearby will extend the health consequences to more than one generation because of the damage that increased pollution and diesel exhaust can do to chromosomes and fetal development. Toxic dust generated by pit operations would continue for years, but the health consequences can last much longer.

Diesel emissions from trucks and equipment will add to the health hazard. Diesel exhaust is a carcinogen and is more toxic than gasoline vehicle exhaust. Long term exposure to even low levels of diesel exhaust raises the risk of dying from lung cancer about 50% for residents who live near industrial operations, and about 300% for the workers.

Based on the scientific evidence and proven health effects of pollutants produced by gravel pit mining, I consider this proposal to be entirely incompatible with what should be Chaffee County officials’ first priority – protection of public health, families, children, and pregnant mothers living near this proposed pit and in nearby Poncha Springs and Salida.

I appeal to all area residents to attend the upcoming Planning Commission public hearing on April 25th at 6 pm and the Board of Commissioners public hearing to be held May 9th at 9 am, both scheduled at the County Building in Salida, and urge our county leaders to reject the proposal. The fate of this proposed gravel pit may be decided at those meetings.

For more information or to sign a petition opposing this gravel pit, please send an email to DontCrushSalida@gmail.com.

Thomas E. Syzek, MD, FACEP
Salida, Colorado

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