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State to hold hearing on quarry project

March 31, 2004|by DON AINES

chambersburg@herald-mail.com

ST. THOMAS, Pa. - Opponents of a proposed quarry near the village of St. Thomas, Pa., will offer legal, environmental and practical arguments on the project when the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection holds a public hearing in the permit application process Thursday.

The 6 p.m. meeting will be held in the gymnasium of the St. Thomas Elementary School on Schoolhouse Road. The hearing is to take comments on the quarry, which would include a concrete and asphalt plant on about 400 acres off Campbell's Run Road.

"We have really not established a deadline" as to when the permit will be granted or denied, said Karl Lasher, a department spokesman. Typically, he said, a 60-day public comment period exists after an application is received and is often extended beyond the hearing for a week or two to allow additional comment.

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"This kind of application could take quite a lot of time," Lasher said of the review process.

The application for the quarry was filed with the department last year by the St. Thomas Development Corp. The St. Thomas Township Board of Supervisors approved a land development plan on Nov. 19 over the objections of many residents, some of whom joined together to form Friends and Residents of St. Thomas, or FROST.

"There isn't a clear line of ownership," said FROST president Francis Calverase. He said the St. Thomas Quarry Corp. was incorporated on May 1, 2003, but the deed to the former orchard where the quarry would be located was registered to the St. Thomas Development Corp. on May 5. He said the corporation did not receive approval to change its name until May 9.

"It's a technicality, but it's a little bit of a serious technicality," Calverase said.

"We also want to get DEP to acknowledge that there are serious difficulties with the siting of the quarry," he said.

If the water table drops as a result of mining, he said that could aggravate a problem with sinkholes near U.S. 30. A similar problem arose in Bushkill, Pa., when a bridge was undermined by a quarry, he said.

If the quarry causes the water level of Campbell's Run and an unnamed tributary to increase or decline, Calverase said that would affect the habitat.

Bryan Salzmann of Chambersburg, Pa., an attorney representing the corporation, did not return two telephone calls Tuesday. The corporation is a subsidiary of Tony DePaul and Son, a Blue Bell, Pa., contracting firm.

If the quarry is granted a permit, Calverase said limitations should be placed on it, including limiting the depth of excavation so that it does not go below the water table.

Frank Stearn, a quarry opponent elected to the township board of supervisors in November as a write-in candidate, said he will make a presentation at the hearing. He said the operators of a quarry should be held responsible for any effects it has on the community.

"The financial risks and the liability risks should all be borne by the quarry and not the residents," he said.

The proposed site is too close to the elementary school, fire hall and other public buildings, he said.

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