Oroville council discusses hazards of storing bins in town

OROVILLE – After repeated complaints that little is done to control dust at a lot used to store apple bins, the Oroville City Council is considering an ordinance to move the bins out of the city limits.

The lot in question is located on the south end of town, along Highway 97 near the city limits and Gold Digger Apples leases the property to store apple bins when they are not needed for harvest.

“It’s a health hazard and an extreme fire hazard. If that pile was to ignite we could lose a lot of homes,” Chuck Spieth, Oroville’s mayor said at the July 20 council meeting. “The dirt that is blown around even in a normal windstorm is bad, let alone a windstorm like the one we had the other night.”

Councilman Tony Keopke said he believed the law should be changed moving bin storage outside of the city limits.

“There’s enough open ground outside of town and the warehouses don’t need more than a 1000 bins stored on site… if they want to store them they should have to move them inside,” he said.

Chris Branch, Oroville’s director of Community and Economic Development, said that although the Department of Ecology has made responsibility for noise pollution that of the municipality, air quality laws were still the responsibility of that state agency.

“They mow the weeds and water the dust only after there have been complaints,” said Rod Noel, Oroville’s Fire Chief and Superintendent of Public Works. “We’re attempting to deal with odors on Eastlake, the city should be able to deal with the bins.”

Councilmen Jon Neal and Ed Naillon both have residences near the lot. Naillon said he felt there was also a problem with access to the highway… that trucks seem to enter and leave the lot wherever they wanted and not at designated ingress and egress points.

Neal said nothing is done about dust suppression unless he or one of his neighbors calls.

“I tell you the dust is ridiculous,” said Naillon.

“Given your concerns I think we can take this a lot further,” said Branch.

“We’ve taken the soft approach and that hasn’t worked,” said Mayor Spieth.

Councilman Walt Hart III said he felt the city should approach the managers of the warehouse and the owner of the lot for a “sit down” first.

Branch suggested that he, the fire chief, Police Chief Clay Warnstaff and a couple council members should decide what course of action to pursue.

“From a fire perspective we set up what we thought we could handle in case of a fire… alleyways to fight the fire and bins stacked only so high. They’ve been blocking the alleyways in their attempt to fight the dust. They’re breaking the ordinance right now,” Noel said.

Keopke said he sees more bin piles in the middle of orchards and outside Wenatchee and speculated that Wenatchee had banned large bin piles in town.

“If they’re already in violation of fire codes we have a place to start the discussion,” Councilwoman Neysa Roley said.

Councilmen Keopke and Hart will meet with staff to further discuss the issue and bring suggestions back to the council.

In other business, Fire Chief Noel told the council that he felt a burning ban should be declared for the city.

“I have been corresponding with the county fire board. I assume the county commissioners will be issuing a burning ban for the county as soon as tomorrow,” Noel said.

About Gary DeVon

Gary DeVon is the managing editor of the Okanogan Valley Gazette-Tribune and celebrated his 25th year at the newspaper in August 2012. He graduated from Gonzaga University with a degree in Communications - Print Journalism, with an emphasis in photojournalism. He is a proud alumnus of Oroville High School. His family first settled in Okanogan County in the late 1800s. His parents are the Judy DeVon and the late Larry DeVon and he has two younger brothers - Dante and Michael. Many family members still call Oroville home. He is single with a grown daughter, Segornae Douglas and a young granddaughter, Erin.

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