State grants permit for St. Thomas quarry

March 02, 2006|by DON AINES

ST. THOMAS, Pa. - FROST President Francis Calverase said he is disappointed by the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection's announcement Wednesday that it has granted a surface mining permit for a quarry in St. Thomas Township, but says his group fought for conditions that will benefit the community.

"Most of the things on the list are things that we pushed for," Calverase said of the operating conditions the DEP has placed on St. Thomas Development Inc. for the 89.5-acre quarry off Campbells Run Road west of the village of St. Thomas.

Friends and Residents of St. Thomas Township (FROST) has been leading opposition to the quarry for more than two years over such issues as the potential for damage to groundwater supplies and air quality, noise pollution and sinkholes, efforts acknowledged by DEP in its announcement that the permit was granted.

"Residents' input had an enormous impact on how this permit was designed," DEP District Mining Engineer Roger Hornberger said in a department news release. "The result is a plan that not only requires the company to meet the strictest environmental standards, but also gives residents a voice in the operations to ensure St. Thomas Development acts in a responsible manner and remains a good neighbor."


St. Thomas Township Supervisor Frank Stearn, who campaigned against the quarry, said Wednesday he could not comment on the issuing of the permit until he has reviewed the special conditions. The final land-use development plan for St. Thomas Development Inc. has yet to be approved by the board, he said.

Owned by the DePaul Group of Blue Bell, Pa., St. Thomas Development originally applied for a permit to operate a 183-acre quarry with concrete and asphalt plants at the site of a former orchard.

Concerns over water quality raised by FROST contributed to the size of the quarry being reduced, Calverase said. There is a fault on the western side of the quarry site that, had mining operations been extended to that area, could have adversely affected groundwater levels and water quality, he said.

The following special conditions were imposed by the DEP:

  • The operator must maintain monitoring wells to test groundwater levels, continuously monitor water flow into Campbell Run and submit quarterly reports to the department.

  • The department must have access to the monitoring wells to check water levels and collect samples for chemical analysis.

  • The operator must build a berm around the mining area, plant trees to minimize noise and maintain the appearance of the site.

  • Offer pre-blast surveys to adjacent landowners to allow the timely resolution of any claims for damage resulting from blasting. Blasting also must be monitored by seismographic and sound equipment, and the operators must publish a blasting schedule in a local newspaper.

  • No blasting is allowed during normal school hours.

  • Sinkholes resulting from quarry operations must be repaired and domestic water supplies affected by mining must be replaced within 14 days.

"This is their protection and it's provided for by state and federal laws," DEP spokesman Tom Rathbun said. The department is urging anyone owning a house or structure within a 1,000-foot radius of the quarry to take part in pre-blast surveys and have their wells tested.

The permit allows mining to a depth of 300 feet, but the operators must get department approval for each 50-foot interval below the groundwater level, according to DEP. The department can also require a major revision of the operating permit if there is significant changes to groundwater levels.

Rathbun said there are 34 special conditions for the surface mining permit, but none of those deal with the proposed asphalt plant.

"That is not a mining issue, that is an air issue" and is dealt with separately by the department, he said.

A quarry could be in operation for decades, but the permit addresses reclamation, calling for it to fill with groundwater once mining operations end. The operator also will have to grade the quarry sides to a 35-degree angle to eliminate vertical walls, according to DEP.

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