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Quarry hearing has high turnout

January 24, 2001

Quarry hearing has high turnout



By SCOTT BUTKI / Staff Writer


Washington County residents concerned with a state proposal making H.B. Mellott liable for potential water problems near the Beaver Creek quarry spoke at a public hearing on the topic Wednesday.

About 15 people spoke at the hearing, which was attended by more than 120 people.

The Maryland Department of the Environment-sponsored hearing gave the community its first look at a proposal to establish a "zone of dewatering influence" around both the east and west pits of the quarry, said Ed Larrimore, program manager of the MDE mining program.

During the hearing, Mark Eisner, hydrologist for the Friends group, questioned whether the state did enough examination of the properties in the area before drawing the zone boundaries.

Roger Worthington, president of Friends of Beaver Creek and Citizens For the Protection of Washington County, agreed the state needs to do more work and gather and share more information before adoption.

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"There needs to be far more testing than has been done so far," he said.

Worthington thanked residents for attending. He had urged people to attend the hearing at and sent out several hundred fliers.

A state law was set up in 1991 to establish such zones around surface mines in Washington, Frederick, Carroll and Baltimore Counties because of the amount of limestone in the area.

A "zone of dewatering influence" is a process initiated by the state, not by quarries, Larrimore said. A decision on the proposal will be made administratively by the state, he said.

If a property owner in this 650-acre zone has a sink hole or their water supply wells are affected, the quarry would be presumed liable, he said. The quarry would usually be required to replace, at no expense to the property owner, a water supply that fails, such as a well or spring.

The zone includes a part of Interstate 70, all of the Albert Powell Fish Hatchery and the quarry pits. There are about 30 properties in the zone.

Property owners in that 650-acre zone "could" be at risk of problems due to the quarry, Larrimore said, but he stopped short of saying the state expects problems to occur there.

At the end of the two hour hearing, Larrimore thanked the community for its feedback and promised to explore the issues raised.

The topic of a proposed quarry expansion arose but Larrimore wanted to keep the discussion focused on the zone proposal instead.

A June 29, 1999 Washington County Commissioners decision to rezone 79 acres that H.B. Mellott Estates Inc. needs to expand its Beaver Creek quarry was reversed in June 2000 by a Washington County Circuit Court judge. That reversal was sparked by a July 1999 legal petition by three members of the Friends group.

The state was also scheduled to discuss the quarry's application to withdraw groundwater from the west pit but that part was postponed since that plan is not completed, Larrimore said. It will be discussed at a later, unscheduled public hearing, Larrimore said.

That groundwater was part of the quarry's answer to a state request to develop a contingency plan if the water supply at the nearby hatchery is affected, he said.

The state will also take written comments about the zone for about 30 days. Those should be sent to: Ed Larrimore, MDE mining program, program manager, 2500 Broening Highway, Baltimore, MD 21224.

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