The Frenchtown School District is asking for help from the Montana Department of Environmental Quality after it was notified that a large sand and gravel pit would be opening near the school in a little more than a month.

Frenchtown Superintendent of Schools Randy Cline said he just received the letter on Thursday regarding the proposed operation.

"I just got the letter yesterday from a company called Nelcon, it's the first I've heard of it, and they're proposing a gravel pit northwest of the high school," Cline began. "It's right on the border of the 17 acres we own for future expansion."

Cline said there are several issues he wants to discuss before the sand and gravel pit operation begin proposed operations in mid-July.

The other major concern, as far as the location goes, is that it's right on the edge of our main well which services over 700 people every day in our school district," he said. "So, we're actually requesting a public hearing on this from the DEQ. The letter said the operation would commence on July 15, 2017, last for 10 years, and would extract an estimated 500,000 cubic yards of material."

Cline said the main concern is the safety of the school district students, especially in the mornings and afternoons when parents are dropping off and picking up students, and how that traffic would interact with the comings and goings of large gravel trucks on a daily basis.

Another concern Cline mentioned is maintaining the integrity of the water table in the area.

"We want to contact a hydrologist to give us some idea of how this will impact our well," he said. "Even without disturbing the area back there, we've already had problems with sand getting into our system. We've had to replace two water pumps in the last 10 years due to sand coming through it. Plus, the water levels in Frenchtown are very high. I've had people tell me they found water after digging for only about 10 feet in some places."

Cline said he has contacted the school's attorney to see if there is a way to delay the start of operations of the Nelcon gravel pit, which are scheduled for July 15, and time is short for all those questions to be answered.

KGVO News has reached out to Nelcon's main office in Kalispell, and is awaiting a reply.

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