Reserve Silica

Updated Through October 18, 2023

Reserve Silica Mine [generally located at 26000 Black Diamond–Ravensdale Road south of Ravensdale]

A portion of the Reserve Silica site is subject to a clean up program under the State’s Model Toxics Control Act (MTCA).  The Washington State Department of Ecology is the agency overseeing the waste identification and remedial action requirements to effect the removal of materials from this site’s soil and groundwater to meet State and federal standards.  The various reports and other documents from the Department of Ecology for public view and review are available at: WA Department of Ecology Document Repository for Reserve Silica Corporation


The Reserve Silica site in Ravensdale was an old Coal and Sand mine that later was partially filled with Cement Kiln Dust. It has been in reclamation under the authority of the State Department of Ecology. Please see the DOE Reserve Silica webpage.

GMVUAC Activities

The GMVUAC has followed the activities at the Reserve Silica site in Ravensdale for decades.

In early 2023 due to concerns about potential unpermitted activities on the site, including a ~40-ac clearcut, the GMVUAC began a dialogue with the King County Dept. of Local Services–Permitting Division. That dialogue led to two letters submitted to King County: Clearcut and Questions

On August 23, 2023, the King County Department of Local Services,, Permitting Division (KC DLS-P) issued an Emergency Authorization to the Reserve Silica Corp. This was the result of a major issue uncovered on the site. A construction site within the area around the former Asarco smelter in Tacoma, a Federal Superfund site, generated ~33 dump truck loads of dirt contaminated with Arsenic and Lead and deposited it at the Reserve Silica site between May 3 – 18, covered it with ~20 ft of soil, and graded it. The Reserve Silica site is not authorized to receive such contaminated fill, which is required to be disposed of at a special type of landfill. The matter originally was brought to King County’s attention by DOE. This is in an initial investigation stage with no legal actions yet taken by King County or DOE. The Area Council believes these initial actions are good, but that it should never have gotten to this point. This particular site has a multi-decade history of this type of questionable disposal, on-going contamination of public resources, egregious violations of permits. Further, the site has a long history to this day of doing a terrible job in managing its stormwater and has a record of discharging contaminated water offsite. The Area Council and other Rural Area councils and associations, have had many ongoing concerns with the Permitting Division’s mission statement, permit and enforcement execution, and lack of resources. Such concerns only will continue until needed changes are made. The repeated incidents of questionable disposal of contaminated wastes and decades of discharging toxic wastes into the environment seriously undermines King County’s system of permitting for mine reclamation and code enforcement thereof.

The GMVUAC was not notified about the Environmental Emergency until September 17, 2023, when it received word from KC DLS-P. On October 8, 2023, the GMVUAC sent a Letter to KC DLS-P calling for several strong specific actions to be taken to hold the perpetrators accountable and ensure it does not happen again. On October 18, 2023, the GMVUAC sent a Letter to the KC Council providing both a full History of the Reserve Silica Corp and its predecessor companies and a Recent (2021-2023) History. The GMVUAC believes these histories and their complex intricacies are important to any final resolutions to the current environmental emergency at the site going forward. They also could help inform any needed legal actions against and financial penalties imposed on the Reserve Silica Corporation.

The GMVUAC has convened multiple meetings on Reserve Silica’s past attempts at securing an upzone and a Demonstration Project to build many homes, respectively, through the 2012 and 2016 King County Comprehensive Plans (KCCPs). The GMVUAC has met with all key WA State and King County Agencies, as well as the requestor, and has conducted extensive research into Reserve Silica’s 2017 KCCP Docket Item #3 request. Docket items are the process by which a change to the KCCP can be requested during annual updates. Such requested changes are meant to be relatively minor or to correct a deficiency.

DOE Updates/Presentations to the Area Council

On March 6, 2023: Update.

On October 4, 2021: Presentation.

On February 1, 2021: Presentation.

State Model Toxics Control Act (MTCA)

The Reserve Silica Mine Site MTCA Cleanup project includes two areas: Reclamation Site and Plant Site (NW corner). Please see Clean-up Process for a description of the MTCA process and how the WaDOE employs it.

Agreed Order

On February 3, 2020, the Washington Department of Ecology’s (WaDOE’s) Tim O’Connor and Alan Noell provided the Area Council an update. Agreed Order negotiations were completed on December 16, 2019, with Potentially Liable Parties (PLPs) for the Reclamation Site. It requires the PLPs to complete a Remedial Investigation (RI) Report, Feasibility Study (FS) Report, and Draft Cleanup Action Plan–all open to Public Comments. Please see “WaDOE document repository” link above for all documents, including the December 16, 2019, Agreed Order, and the January 29, 2020, Responsiveness Summary ReportThere is a RI Work Plan due in Spring of 2020. The RI Report is expected by the end of 2021. FS Report is expected by the end of 2022. Finally, the Draft Cleanup Plan is expected in 2023. It should be noted the Plant Site is part of an Independent Cleanup Process, which abides by the MTCA requirements.

On March 4, 2019, WaDOE’s Tim O’Connor and Alan Noell provided an update on the Reserve Silica Mine Site MTCA Cleanup project — view their slides here (pdf – 2 MB): PowerPoint_Reserve Silica_GMVUAC_03042019.

WaDOE has published its Draft Agreed Order, Public Participation Plan, and Public Comment Period Fact Sheet; please read them here: WaDOE Reserve Silica Draft Agreed Order WaDOE Public Participation Plan WaDOE Comment Period Fact Sheet . The GMVUAC submitted comments on December 7, 2018, regarding the Department’s draft Agreed Order and Public Participation Plan relating to the Reserve Silica Mine Site MTCA Cleanup project; read the Council’s comment letter here: Comment Ltr–RS Agreed Order .

Work Plan

Madeline Wall, P.E., WaDOE Site Manager, sent the following email to GMVUAC on 11/30/2018 re our request that there be a public review and comment period available for the Reserve Silica Site Work Plan before it is finalized:

“Thank you the opportunity to present to and discuss with the community the Reserve Silica cleanup project. From comments made and questions asked during the meeting, we understand the community is very interested in staying informed and involved in the project as it progresses.  As you say in your email, the current public comment period pertains to the draft Agreed Order and draft Public Participation Plan. We will also have comment periods when the draft Remedial Investigation (RI) and draft Feasibility Study (FS) reports are available, and again when the draft Cleanup Action Plan and SEPA determination are ready.  Comment periods are not typical for work plans for PLP-led sites. We can, however, make the RI workplan available to the public before we begin implementing it. While this would not be a formal comment period, we would accept and consider comments on the plan.  All the comments we receive in response to the draft Agreed Order will be reviewed by both Ecology and the PLPs. Comments pertaining to suggestions or requests for specific RI activities will be considered as we develop the RI work plan.  Your comments on the draft Agreed Order can include comments on what you think is important to include in the RI Workplan. As far as comments related to the RI report, the FS report, and the Cleanup Action Plan, there will be comment periods for those documents when they are in draft form.  At sites with high interest, we can keep key stakeholder groups updated in a variety of ways. We would be glad to share and discuss data received, next steps, planned activities, etc., with GMVUAC and other interested parties throughout the process and receive feedback. Ecology accepts comments on cleanup site documents and activities, regardless of whether or not it is an official comment period.”

Review of Draft Agreed Order and Public Participation Plan

Thanks to the express written permission given by Michael and Donna Brathovde to the GMVUAC on November 21, 2018, the Brathovdes’ detailed comments regarding and relating to the WaDOE’s Draft Agreed Order and Public Participation Plan, as well as their review commentary on existing documents regarding the Reserve Silica Mine Site MTCA Cleanup Project, may be read in full here:  MDB_Agreed Order DE 16052 – Brathovde Comments     MDB_Data Gaps & Site Definition – Brathovde Comments     MDB_2018-01 Brathovde Comments Reserve Silica Draft RI     MDB_Assessment of Reserve Silica Proposal as of 08-2016 .

On November 16, 2018, the GMVUAC held a special meeting at which the Washington State Department of Ecology presented and discussed its Draft Agreed Order (which is an agreement to conduct a remedial investigation, feasibility study, and draft cleanup action plan) for the Reserve Silica Mine Site Cleanup Project. The Department’s Madeline Wall and Tim O’Connor, together with Reserve Silica’s Site Manager, Fred White, and Holcim’s team of Gary Zimmerman and Golder Associates, discussed with all in attendance this Draft Agreed Order and its implementation. The DOE will hold open a public comment period on its Draft Agreed Order from November 5 through December 7, 2018.

At its May 7 GMVUAC meeting, Madeline Wall, Model Toxics Control Act (MTCA) Cleanup Project Manager, WA Department of Ecology, for the Reserve Silica site in Ravensdale, along with Amy White, the community outreach specialist assigned to the site, provided an update regarding its development of an Agreed Order (under WAC 173-340-530) with potentially liable parties to pay for remedial cleanup actions. Cleanup of the site is being conducted in accordance with the State Model Toxics Control Act (MTCA), which was established as law in 1989, regarding clean-up of industrial contaminated sites. This multistep process includes: 1. evaluate the site and its history; 2. identify the sources of any contamination found and if they contaminated the ground or groundwater; 3. if contaminants are found, conduct a feasibility study to determine options to clean up the site; 4. establish an action plan; 5. conduct post-cleanup such as any property covenants needed, pits needing to be filled, etc.; and 6. complete cleanup, closeout the work, and finally delist the site. At this time Holcim, one of the potentially liable parties associated with the deposit of Cement Kiln Dust on site, has designed a leachate treatment system that will start up soon. DOE is monitoring that work. DOE also explained the community outreach/public participation activities typically involved in MTCA cleanup sites, and solicited input on the best ways to communicate information to GMVUAC and other community members. When the Agreed Order is ready, there will be a 30-day Public comment period.  Visit the Department’s Document Repository to download and review the various public documents available for this project: DOE Document Repository – Reserve Silica Site

Background Information

UPDATE:  The Washington Department of Ecology’s Madeline Wall, P.E., MTCA Cleanup Project Manager, has provided the following brief update regarding the status of the Reserve Silica site cleanup projec as of March 20, 2018t:

[T]hree new documents [were just added] to the document repository for the Reserve Silica Site [Cleanup Site Documents]: BNSF Preliminary PLP Determination Letter, BNSF Final PLP Determination Letter, and Ecology decision regarding definition of the site [read this letter here: Decision re: Definition of the RS Cleanup Site].  [I]n early January [the Department of Ecology] decided [it] needed to consider BNSF Railway as a PLP.  [Ecology] put things on hold while [it] went through the process of sending a preliminary and then a final letter of PLP determination.  The final letter to BNSF went out earlier this month and [Ecology doesn’t] know yet what BNSF’s participation in the Agreed Order will be.  As for an Agreed Order with the other two PLPs – Reserve Silica and Holcim – [Ecology] postponed the kickoff meeting while went through the PLP process with BNSF.  [Ecology is] now in the process of re-scheduling the kickoff meeting.  [Ecology] will be developing a public participation plan and will go out for comment on that plan and the draft agreed order [ — not known] yet when that will be, but as [Ecology develops] the public participation plan, [Ecology] will be in contact with [GMVUAC] for input.

On January 8, 2018, Ms Wall previously provided the following brief overview of the public review and comment period to be afforded the Reserve Silica site cleanup project:

The November 2017 Remedial Investigation (RI) was something outside of an agreed order.  Reserve Silica took it on themselves to do it in an effort to show that certain parcels are not affected by contaminant releases.  They focused on areas of the site outside of the CKD (Cement Kiln Dust) affected areas.  If any member of the public wishes to offer comments on this RI, he/she should submit such comments to the Department of Ecology by the end of January 2018.  Another RI report will be required under the Agreed Order that is being developed.  There will be a public comment period on that RI.  But before that, there will be a public comment period on the draft Agreed Order and related documents.  No timeline has been established at this time.  Public notice and the comment period regulations applicable to these documents may be found under WAC 173-340-600.  MTCA Public Notice and Comment Regulations  Comments regarding the Reserve Silica site MTCA cleanup project should be submitted to:  Madeline Wall, P.E., MTCA Cleanup Project Manager, Department of Ecology, Northwest Regional Office, 3190 160th Ave SE, Bellevue, WA 98008-5452 (email:

On January 9, 2018, area residents and concerned citizens Michael and Donna Brathovde submitted their extensive comments on the initial Reserve Silica RI Report to the Department of Ecology.  With their express written permission received January 10, 2018, the GMVUAC has included a full copy of their comments for the public to read and generate additional interest in and commentary on this important matter.  Read the Brathovde Comment Letter here:  2018-01 Brathovde Comments Reserve Silica Draft RI

Demonstration Project

The GMVUAC has convened multiple meetings on Reserve Silica’s past attempts at securing an upzone and a Demonstration Project to build many homes, respectively, through the 2012 and 2016 King County Comprehensive Plans (KCCPs). The GMVUAC has met with all key WA State and King County Agencies, as well as the requestor, and has conducted extensive research into Reserve Silica’s 2017 KCCP Docket Item #3 request. Docket items are the process by which a change to the KCCP can be requested during annual updates. Such requested changes are meant to be relatively minor or to correct a deficiency.

In addition to detailed comments submitted to County staff, the GMVUAC submitted the following letter to the King County Council for its consideration at its December 4, 2017, meeting during which it considered, and ultimately denied, Reserve Silica’s Docket Item #3 request for inclusion in the 2017 Comprehensive Plan Update:

December 3, 2017, Letter re KC Executive’s Recommendations

The GMVUAC opposed the Docket Item #3 request for the following reasons with details and supporting rationale presented in our comments.

  1. State’s Growth Management Act (GMA)

It does not in any way conform to the GMA to repair a “deficiency” in the KCCP. The Annual cycle of amending comprehensive plans is meant to handle “minor” technical revisions.

  1. State Appellate Court Decisions

By not bifurcating the consideration of the Comprehensive Plan and what is a separate zone change subject to independent public hearings conducted by the Hearing Examiner, the site specific proposal made by Reserve Silica and the combination of concurrent legislative and quasi-judicial functions constitutes illegal spot zoning clearly in contravention of numerous State appellate court decisions.

  1. King County Code

It would violate, at a minimum, the following King County Code:


19A.04.205  Large lot segregation.


20.18.030  General procedures. B.

20.18.050  Site-specific land use map and shoreline master program map amendments initiation.  I. and J.

20.18.055  Site-specific land use map amendment review standards and transmittal procedures.

20.18.140  Provision for receipt, review of and response to the docket.


21A.12.040  Densities and dimensions – resource and commercial/industrial zones.

21A.22.081 Reclamation B.

  1. King County Comprehensive Plan (KCCP)

It would violate, at a minimum, the following KCCP policies:

Chapter 3—Rural Areas and Natural Resource Lands

R-208  [Rural Forest Focus Areas]

R-304  [individual zone reclassifications are discouraged and should not be allowed in the Rural Area]

R-305  [residential density of one home per 20 ac on Rural Area lands managed for forestry]

R-691  [reclamation of mining sites in the Forest Production District should return the land to forestry…zoning classification should be compatible with the surrounding properties]

Chapter 12—Implementation, Amendments, & Evaluation

I-203  [annual cycle shall not consider proposed substantive changes]

  1. Forest Production District (FPD)

It essentially would establish residential use within the boundaries of the FPD. The overarching goal of the FPD—and the Rural Forest Focus Areas (RFFAs)—is to retain large, contiguous blocks of forest land. This overarching goal would clearly not be achieved by upzoning the 122 ac to a RA-10 land use/zoning. As recently confirmed by King County’s Department of Permitting & Environmental Review (DPER) staff, reforestation of all this land and retaining the underlying zone as Forestry are also consistent with the King County Code requirements applicable to the surface mining permit reclamation plan and program for the entire Reserve Silica site.

  1. Upzoning “Domino” Effect

It could cause a “domino” effect in the FPD. If these 122 ac go to a rural residential land use, then the two Forestry-zoned, FPD parcels to the west will be forever isolated from the FPD block. So, why not upzone them also, as Reserve Silica tried to do in 2012? Then why not upzone the 52-ac Inert Waste Lot #5 next? Then why not upzone the 58-ac “Plant Site/Settling Ponds” tract? Should the precedent be set with these 122 ac, a classic domino effect of continuing upzones likely could follow. In fact, if the FPD boundary were pushed to the east of Reserve Silica’s site, the 80-ac Lot 3, currently zoned Forestry, could be upzoned as Reserve Silica tried to do in 2016. Consequently, upzoning of Reserve Silica’s 122 ac would create a precedent for upzoning other depleted mining/industrial sites and a loop-hole for upzoning other substandard sized lots in the FPD. Such a very dangerous domino effect should be avoided at all costs!

  1. State Department of Ecology (DOE)

It is premature to even contemplate any change in use until a Model Toxics Control Act (MTCA) Remedial Investigation/Feasibility Study (RI/FS) has been completed and accepted by the State DOE. Until DOE accepts a final RI/FS and clearly defines the MTCA cleanup “site” contours (i.e., parts or all of the site), Reserve Silica cannot state or prove unequivocally that contamination is contained to any portion of the site, thus rendering any consideration for future residential zoning moot.

  1. Administrative

Finally, the King County Council has taken two previous actions during the major four-year KCCP Update related to the Reserve Silica site in 2012 and 2016. Both decisions wisely rejected Reserve Silica’s previous requests to change its land use and zoning from Mineral/Mining to Rural Residential/RA-10. In addition, the 2016 decision removed the option from being pursued during the annual KCCP Update cycles.