A group of Kootenai County residents is protesting a new rock crushing operation in their neighborhood, which they say has plagued them with dust, noise and all-night operations.
There has also been a run-in between workers and neighbors over alleged gunshots.
"We're trying to find someone who's on our side," said Angie Squires, who lives across the street from the fenced operation on Ohio Match Road, just west of Old Highway 95.
She and several neighbors are arranging a meeting with at least 30 others, she said, and they plan to submit a petition against the operation to the county commissioners.
"It just baffles me there's nothing we could do to stop them from running 24/7," Squires said.
That might be the case, though.
The crushing operation by Lewiston company DeAtley Crushing, conducted on 5 acres owned by Washington-based Terra5 Company, LLC, has every right to be there, said Scott Clark with county Community Development.
The acreage is zoned mining, Clark said, on which a permit isn't needed for rock crushing.
The property was given the zoning in the '70s, he added, predating noise restrictions and development agreements that can establish such specific limitations.
There is also no limit on hours of operation on the zoned acreage, Clark confirmed.
"It's kind of a tough situation," Clark said, adding that the Idaho Department of Environmental Quality still monitors dust. "I offer kind of the same advice we often give neighbors, if it's possible to talk and see if they can work out some of the differences."
Squires and several neighbors report that the rock crushing began a few weeks ago, with no notice beforehand.
They have said the crushing is pervasively loud, and has blown excessive dust onto their properties and sometimes impaired their sight driving nearby.
Operations last as late as midnight to 2 a.m., they said.
"We are just very upset. The noise is just horrible, along with the dust," Squires said. "At night, you can't open the windows to let cool air in. You can just taste the dust when this is going on."
Wayne Cramer, who lives on Ramsey Road about a quarter mile away, said the noise has prevented him from sleeping before he gets up for work at 4 a.m.
His complaints to the crew have been unheeded, he said.
"That's why people bought in this area, they want to keep their quiet and be left alone," Cramer said. "We're just trying to get them to where they'll run at a decent hour and run water suppression systems, where there's not a giant plume hitting you when you drive."
Another neighbor, Sharron Simon, who lives within a quarter mile of the site, said she didn't mind a previous crushing operation there many years ago that operated from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m.
"If they worked in the normal working hours, then we wouldn't have a problem," she said.
The DEQ did issue DeAtley a warning notice on Aug. 15 about dust violations.
Squires said the dust has since reduced in the day, but only increases again in the evening.
Cramer also called the sheriff's department last Monday evening over two gunshots he heard north of the crushing equipment.
Cramer believed the shots were fired by a frustrated neighbor, according to the sheriff's report, but he was more troubled by the noise and dust from the site.
DeAtley site superintendent Anthony Forsyth is quoted in the report that he has permits to operate "24/7 if I want to."
After an officer spoke to both Cramer and Forsyth, the report states, "both were much less agitated and were no longer screaming at one another."
Forsyth agreed with an officer's request to operate from 7 a.m. to 10 p.m., according to the report, but Squires said the equipment still starts long before and continues long after those hours.
The Idaho Department of Lands confirmed the operation's permit is valid until reclamation is completed.
Lt. Stu Miller with the sheriff's department said the neighbors could file charges against DeAtley for disturbing the peace, but there is no certainty the Prosecutor's Office will prosecute.
A DeAtley spokesperson did not return messages.
According to the Washington Secretary of State's website, Terra5 Company, LLC has the same governing agents as the Scarsella Brothers, Inc., also a Washington company.
The Scarsella Brothers' office said the individual with all knowledge of the project is on vacation and could not be reached.
The neighbors don't want to stop businesses from functioning, Cramer emphasized.
"It's all about being a good neighbor and having some respect for people around you," he said.