A problem of overwhelming smells and noise is still plaguing the neighborhood along Orchard Lane in Billings. Another round of complaints from two citizens in the neighborhood prompted Yellowstone County Commissioners to pursue further what can be done about the operations of Highlands Project, a manufacturer of storage tanks and silos used in fracking in the oil fields.
Kevin Nelson and Don Thompson spoke to county commissioners saying that the conditions are intolerable for residents in the area. Thompson said, "The paint smell is so strong we couldn't stay outside." The noise starts some days at 4 am and also forces residence to stay indoors.
Nelson challenged the commissioners to file suit against the company, saying he disagreed with Deputy County Attorney Dan Schwarz's decision that state law did not support any action by the county. At a neighborhood meeting Schwarz told the residents that state law allowed the county to take legal action only if the nuisance was impacting the entire community.
Nelson presented copies of Montana State Codes and pointed out specific language that defined a public nuisance as "any act that affects an entire community or neighborhood or any considerable number of persons."
Schwarz stood by his interpretation of the law, saying that it was based upon case histories of court decisions.
Nelson also stated that the Sheriff's deputies had been on site to investigate, and had ordered the business to close down. The report, however, was not forwarded to the county attorney's office, which would be necessary to pursue legal action.
Nelson further stated that he has had conversations with the state Department of Environmental Quality, where officials said "it is something that has to be taken care of," and that they would take action if the county fails to do so.
Commissioner Bill Kennedy said the commissioners would pass the matter along to John Felton, the county public health officer.
Commissioner John Ostlund said that the county has been cautious in approaching the issue because they don't want to discourage a growing business.
The Big Sky Business Journal
P.O. Box 3262
Billings, MT 59103