A dilapidated farmhouse and outbuildings currently occupy the land at 8367 Kneuman Rd. in Sumas. Canadian businessman Severin Samulski wants to build a concrete manufacturing facility here, which is opposed by residents in a housing division located across the road. (Eric Trent/Lynden Tribune)

Public hearing with council is next Tuesday; neighbors raise concerns

SUMAS — The proposal of a new concrete manufacturing facility in Sumas has nearby residents worried.

The 8.4-acre property in mind for building is at 8367 Kneuman Rd., where currently a dilapidated farmhouse, barn and outbuildings sit. It is directly across the road from a housing development with a cluster of around 30 homes.

Homeowners say they have health concerns about hazardous pollutants that could be caused by the company, Sumas Concrete Products, which plans to manufacture concrete masonry units, such as building blocks, slabs and pavers, for the construction industry.

A permit application was filed with the City of Sumas by Severin Samulski of Lakeport Reach LLC back on Jan. 2, 2019.

Now the Sumas City Council is holding a public hearing on the Lakeport Reach proposal, set as part of the council meeting at 7 p.m. Tuesday, Nov. 12, in Sumas City Hall, 433 Cherry St.

Samulski, a Canadian businessman from Abbotsford, British Columbia, is listed as president of Tristar Brick and Block Ltd., and Hinterland Masonry Supplies Inc., both located in Abbotsford. Also mentioned in the conditional use permit is Samulski’s concrete facility, Abbotsford Concrete Products.

In 2016 Sumas annexed 114 acres that includes the project site in its Comprehensive Plan with the intent of making the western side of the city a  zone for light industry.

But Steven Brock, a homeowner in the section of houses across the street, feels Samulski is taking advantage of the city of Sumas to rake in money — and to the detriment of residents.

Brock, 65, a retired registered nurse, bought his house, located a stone’s throw from the U.S.-Canada border, with his wife 17 years ago when they moved up here from Skagit County.

Brock represents the 30 homeowners, who he says are all against construction of the concrete plant. He and his neighbors found out about the planned building in February and have expressed their concerns to the city of Sumas for the last eight months. Brock says he and his neighbors feel their voices aren’t being heard.

The planned site sits directly atop the Abbotsford-Sumas Aquifer, from which the city pulls its drinking water that is used by 812 homes and businesses in Sumas and beyond, according to the city’s Comprehensive Plan. And Sumas has some of the best-tasting water in the state.

That makes Brock and his neighbors most worried is that the aquifer is susceptible to contamination from surface activities, according to a study by the Ministry of Environment in British Columbia.

“The contamination of our groundwater, the aquifer and our soil, where our children are growing up and playing,” Brock said. “And we have gardens. It would be deadly. That’s our primary concern, is the destruction of the environment we live in.”

Only a thin layer of soil prevents contaminants from leaking down into the aquifer, and the water table is only 15 feet below the surface around the edges of the aquifer. High rainfall can also wash contaminants down into the groundwater.

According to the City of Sumas Comprehensive Land Use Plan, put together in 2016, groundwater from the Sumas Wellfield, where water is pulled from the aquifer, is not “under the influence of surface water.”

Sumas Concrete Products, which plans to have nine new employees, says it will “detain and treat all storm water in an underground storm water system,” according to the permit.

The city’s Mitigated Determination of Nonsignificance determined that the project “does not have a probable significant adverse impact on the environment,” provided certain conditions are met.

The 15 conditions that need to be met for a permit to move forward include: a water quality certification from the Washington Department of Ecology, a hydraulic project approval from the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife, and permits and approvals from the Northwest Clean Air Agency.

It’s not to the point where anything has been certified, Sumas Mayor Kyle Christensen said, but the Department of Ecology has been involved since the early stages. 

The council has a large booklet of information on the project to help with their decision-making, Christensen said.

“It’s important not to rush these things because of the public concern,” Christensen said. “Making sure the councilmen have all the information they need to make an informed decision is important. That’s been the city’s stance — to not rush through this and make sure we’re looking at all angles.

Brock and his neighbors are hoping the Sumas City Council and mayor will recognize the potential dangers associated with the proposed concrete facility and vote no on the permit.

“To simply protect the residents against something that would be destructive to their homes, families and property values,” Brock said. “That’s why we elected our council and mayor, to do that. And we’d like them to do that.”

“I’ll be supportive of whatever the council decides,” Christensen said.