Maricopa County residents are breathing a little easier after Maricopa County�s Air Quality Dept. reached an enforcement settlement agreement with Dickson, N.D.-based Fisher and Sand Gravel Co. for $1 million over air quality violations.

The settlement consists of a $650,000 fine and another $350,000 investment in an air quality awareness program that is still in development.

�The truth is that the program has not been formulated yet,� says MCAQD spokeswoman Holly Ward. The department hopes the program will help prevent future pollution.

According to a press release, the program will be implemented and begin outreach initiatives this year.

�The tough part about these cases is that they occur after the pollution has occurred,� Ward says.

More than 1,000 violations occurred over a two and a half year period beginning in 2007, at the Fisher Sand and Gravel plant located at 3826 S. 28th St. in Phoenix.

Ward characterized the violations as �pretty severe.�

Fisher Sand and Gravel has taken steps to correct its actions, according to company spokesman Karl Gentles. �Fisher is relieved to finalize the settlement and start with a clean slate,� Gentles says. �It is a different company than it was two years ago.�

A number of improvements have been made to the Phoenix plant since the violations were brought forward. �We have moved quite a bit of gravel and sound and other products to different areas of the facility that would minimize dust,� Gentles says. �The sand tiles have been removed to minimize and mitigate the amount of dust that comes off the site.�

The company also added environmental management systems to help ensure it is in compliance with all state and local permits.

This wasn�t the first violation for Fisher Sand and Gravel from the MCAQD. In May 2009, the company was fined $150,000 for permit, dust and opacity violations. �That was separate from the Jan. 19 settlement agreement with this department,� Ward says.

Gentles wouldn�t comment on the previous violation.