It would be hard to find a more beautiful place more damaged by industry than DuPont. The high bluffs overlooking Puget Sound have been exploited ever since fur traders established Washington's first European settlement here in 1833.
The railroad cut off salmon-bearing streams with its waterfront track, and for 67 years, the DuPont Co. manufactured dynamite in the town, leaving soil saturated with arsenic, lead and the high explosive dinitrotoluene. The land has been shot up and drained by the U.S. Army and scalped and subdivided by real estate developers.
Now the issue is gravel mining.
Glacier Northwest, the concrete and aggregates company, wants to expand its DuPont gravel mine by 177 acres, cutting through an aquifer and expanding the pit to nearly a square mile.
The new 80-foot-deep pit would back tight up against the Sequalitchew Creek ravine, a short walk from DuPont City Hall.
Residents worry that the expansion would destroy what's left of the ravine and suck water out of surrounding streams and wetlands for miles around.
"It's all about money," said Steve Wyant, a lifelong DuPont resident. "If land doesn't produce money for somebody, then everybody seems to think it needs to be developed."
Last month, the City of DuPont approved Glacier Northwest's expansion proposal, with a few minor changes. All sides will have an opportunity to express their opinions March 3 and 4, when a hearing examiner takes testimony at City Hall.
The controversy in DuPont is the most recent flare-up in an incendiary debate over gravel mining on Puget Sound. In DuPont, as elsewhere, the tension involves finding a balance between economic and environmental interests.
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