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Engineer: Pond draining near quarry site not unexpected

August 11, 2004|by DON AINES

ST. THOMAS, Pa. - The draining of a pond last week during work on a well at the site of a proposed quarry in St. Thomas Township was not unexpected and will happen again when a pump test is conducted in the next few weeks, according to an engineer for the project.

"When the pond went dry, people saw it and got excited ... but we expected that to happen," said Lance Kegerreis, vice president of Dennis E. Black Engineering Inc. of Chambersburg, Pa., which is doing groundwater tests for St. Thomas Development Inc., the developer of the 183-acre site west of the village of St. Thomas.

Quarry opponents, however, believe the draining of the pond along U.S. 30 is a portent of what could happen to domestic wells in the area.


"When they started to pump out the well the other day, the level went below the feeder spring and the pond went dry," said Francis J. Calverase, president of Friends and Residents of St. Thomas, or FROST, a group opposed to the quarry.

"They're immediately pumping off the groundwater at that level," Calverase said. "Any change in the groundwater level is going to affect that stream and that pond," along with wells in the area, he said.

Coupled with a June fish kill in the pond and a stream that were caused by sediment stirred up by another well drilling operation, Calverase said it raises serious questions about the affect a quarry would have on water quality.

Kegerreis said air was blown into the 300-foot deep well to clear sediment. That displaced water in a fault line that is the source of a spring that feeds the pond, causing the water in the pond to drain into the fault line.

The spring recharged the pond by Saturday, he said. The draining of the pool was a good sign, Kegerreis said, because it showed there was not a lot of groundwater flow at the shallow level of the pond.

The test well is 2,300 feet from the pond, but Kegerreis said it had no effect on other monitoring sites on and off the quarry site, including a well 100 feet away. The majority of the underground flow is 250 feet or more below ground, he said.

The pump test he said will pull water out of the well "as hard as possible for 72 hours in an attempt to drop the water down to what the pit elevation would be," he said. That will determine whether the quarry can go as deep as planned without running into too much water to operate and the effect on groundwater around the site.

Calverase said St. Thomas Development Inc., a subsidiary of Tony DePaul and Son of Blue Bell, Pa., should be required to do dye testing to determine how far away from the quarry groundwater will be affected.

That view was supported by state Sen. Terry Punt, R-33rd, who sent a letter last Thursday to the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection asking for an explanation of why the quarry developer was granted a 210-day extension to address 66 deficiencies in the permit application. The extension was granted July 30, a day before the deadline for submitting technical information.

The letter granting the extension cited the company's "inability to properly complete the required pumping test ... That hydrogeologic information will be an important factor in determining whether your permit application will be issued or denied." The department letter stated the additional time for data collection and evaluation was justifiable.

Punt called the decision "irresponsible and reprehensible" and criticized "the seemingly hurried and secretive way in which this decision was made." Punt asked for the identity of those who made the decision and their reasoning.

Punt wrote that he opposes the location of the quarry because of its negative impact on the community, including a school within 1,000 feet. Current mining law in Pennsylvania allows quarries within 300 feet of a school, but Punt wrote he is proposing legislation that would extend the limit to 1,500 feet.

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