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Residents map strategy to fight Pa. quarry plan

July 31, 2003|by DON AINES

chambersburg@herald-mail.com

ST. THOMAS, Pa. - More than 80 people, most with lawn chairs, gathered in the parking lot of Dr. Pierre Turchi's office Wednesday night to organize, sign petitions and plot strategy to stop the construction of a proposed quarry and concrete and asphalt plants to be built near the village of St. Thomas.

Residents of the township are forming a group to oppose the quarry and plants, which would be located on the land of the former Mountain Brook Orchard northwest of the village.

"We've got to be united if we're going to accomplish anything," said Sassy Turchi, the physician's wife. She asked those attending to take copies of a petition to circulate to neighbors.

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In April, the St. Thomas Development Corp., an affiliate of Tony DePaul and Son, a Blue Bell, Pa., contracting firm, purchased the 381 acres of the orchard for $2 million. Residents recently learned the corporation plans to develop approximately 180 acres of that land for a limestone quarry and the two plants.

"We all have something at stake here and that's our property and the environment," said Dr. Gregg Brady, one of the meeting's organizers.

Brady said the operation would mean 300 to 500 dump trucks a day coming and going along U.S. 30. He said the figure was based on documents the firm filed with the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection.

Brady said he was concerned about "dust, noise, blasting, groundwater pollution" and damage to roads that could result from the operation. He said trucks probably would run around the clock for the asphalt plant, because paving is often done at night.

"That's too many trucks going up and down this road where my kids are and your kids are," said resident Amy Smith.

"Rural America is under siege," said Scott Blanchard, a township resident who ran an unsuccessful Republican primary campaign for Franklin County commissioner in May that focused on environmental issues. Blanchard said many concrete plants burn biosolids as an alternative fuel to lower costs, but that can create air pollution.

"You're not going to beat them with money," Blanchard said. "What are you going to beat them with? Solidarity."

"I do a fair amount of mining work. It's fairly heavily regulated," Bryan Salzmann, a Chambersburg, Pa., attorney representing St. Thomas Development Corp. said earlier in the day. He said the operation could bring benefits to the area, such as a number of good paying jobs, and such businesses are a necessary part of the economy.

"We all use things that come from quarries. We all drive on roads," Salzmann said. The limestone mined from the quarry would be crushed into gravel to be used at the asphalt and concrete plants, he said.

The organizers asked the residents to give them questions about the project that they want answered.

"It would be real nice if the township had the authority to just say 'no'," Ed Herald, chairman of the St. Thomas Board of Supervisors, said in answer to one woman's question. "We have to be able to substantiate why we say 'no.'"

Herald said DePaul has offered to take members of the township supervisors and planning commission on tours of other quarries it owns. He said he also intends to speak with elected officials in those communities.

Herald said he was at the meeting as a resident, but said he believes the board plans to fight the quarry. If there is nothing the township can do to stop the project, he said the board has to be prepared to try and minimize any problems created by the quarry.

The group has not scheduled a second meeting as yet, Brady said. Sassy Turchi said a second meeting would be used to name the group and select officers.

The township planning commission will review the plan at its Wednesday, Aug. 13, meeting, and organizers asked the group to attend that and subsequent commission and supervisor meetings.

"Tell your neighbors, tell your friends," Smith told the group. "We've got to care now. Otherwise it will be too late."

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