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Residents speak out against proposed quarry

April 02, 2004|by RICHARD F. BELISLE

waynesboro@herald-mail.com

ST. THOMAS, PA. - About 20 of the nearly 200 people at a public hearing Thursday on a proposed limestone quarry in St. Thomas spoke against the project, citing noise, dust, heavy truck traffic, safety issues and property values. Township newcomer Ken Franklin, however, hit the developers and regulatory agency representatives with a point that drew applause from the crowd.

Franklin said that while he enjoys his new community, he may have made a poor choice moving there.

He challenged officials from the Department of Environmental Protection, who held the hearing, to "step aside from your professional roles. How would you feel if you lived in this community?"

He said residents' opposition to the project is an "issue of the heart. That's why so many are here. Their heart is in their community, in their homes. Don't let this company dig a hole out here to bury this community."

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The St. Thomas Development Corp. of Blue Bell, Pa., a Philadelphia suburb, wants to build a quarry, concrete and asphalt plant on nearly 400 acres off Campbell's Run Road.

The hearing was held by the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection in the St. Thomas Elementary School, which is about 1,000 feet from the proposed quarry, a fact that opponents brought up Thursday.

The St. Thomas Board of Supervisors approved the preliminary plan because it met township ordinances, Supervisor Ed Herald said.

The supervisors still have to approve the final plan, but that can't happen until the DEP approves the project.

Keith A. Laslow, a DEP geologist, said it could be six months before the agency acts on the permit application.

Written public comments can be sent to the DEP in the next seven days.

Herald asked DEP officials to consider the quarry's proximity to the elementary school and township recreational grounds, air and noise pollution, traffic flow from heavy trucks, effects of the quarry operation on streams and groundwater and environmental impacts.

William Y. Potter, the developer's consultant, said the quarry would mine and crush aggregate for road construction and for concrete and asphalt production.

The quarry pit could reach a depth of 340 feet, he said. One speaker who followed said that would be deep enough to bury the Statue of Liberty.

The quarry operation would require the movement of about 1.8 million gallons of water a day. The water would end up in sediment ponds before flowing into three tributaries of Campbell's Run, a tributary of the Potomac River, Potter said.

Sinkholes created by the operation and the potential loss of private wells from draining of the groundwater were among the residents' top worries.

Some speakers wanted extensive geological surveys done in and around the site to guarantee against sinkholes and dried-up wells. Others were concerned that dust and noise from the blasting and crushing operations would reach the school.

Jeff Spidel, president of the Tuscarora School Board, which oversees St. Thomas Elementary, said the quarry would adversely affect the safety and well-being of the students as well as their learning environment. He said 31 school buses and vans would be sharing the road with the heavy trucks going into and out of the quarry every day.

He said he worried that the quarry would reduce property values, which in turn would reduce the real estate taxes the school district takes in from the St. Thomas area.

Any loss in tax revenue would have to be made up across the rest of the district, he said.

Jane Beecher said the quarry would destroy the "breathtaking views" along the nearby Lincoln Highway. "Our once peaceful valley will become dirty and dusty."

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