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Public hearing on plans for Gerrardstown quarry draws crowd of opponents

May 15, 2008|By MATTHEW UMSTEAD

HEDGESVILLE, W.Va. -- Plans by a brick manufacturer to quarry shale next to a southern Berkeley County town were assailed Wednesday at a public hearing attended by about 150 people who heartily applauded practically every lawmaker and resident who spoke out against the project.

"I live probably about as far from this proposal as you can get and still live in Berkeley County and I stand completely opposed to this project," Clint Hogbin said of plans by North Mountain Shale LLC to mine shale from land near Gerrardstown, W.Va.

"The potential impact from sedimentation on Mill Creek is too great a loss," said Hogbin, who resides along the Potomac River near Hedgesville.

Don Sult, an executive with Continental Brick Co., attended the hearing, but declined to respond to Gerrardstown property owner Stevan Hudock, who hoped to ask about the project that borders his farm.

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"It's your time to talk," said Sult, who stood in one corner of the meeting room at James Rumsey Technical Institute and took notes on the comments made by 28 people during the hearing.

Hogbin said the West Virginia Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) has the "legislative tool" to deny the storm-water permit that the company applied for, citing the agency's use of it to deny a limestone quarry project 10 years ago along the Berkeley-Jefferson county line.

"This is the wrong economic development for the Eastern Panhandle," Hogbin said.

After more than 90 minutes of remarks, including those from state Sen. John Unger, Del. Jonathan Miller, Berkeley County Commission President Steven C. Teufel and several Gerrardstown residents, DEP hearing facilitator Rich Carter reminded residents they had 10 more days until May 24 to submit their comments regarding the permit application.

Carter was unable to say exactly how long the DEP would take to consider the application, but estimated a decision could be made in July.

"As a farmer, I'm restricted," Hudock said. "I can't put chicken manure too close to the stream, I can't put too many cattle on my farm or I will get in trouble ..."

"I follow everything I'm supposed to, but when a new company comes and ruins my property, I have to stand up and the community, I think we're doing the right thing, this has to stop," Hudock concluded, drawing another vigorous round of applause.

As chairman of the state Water Resource Commission, Unger told the crowd he had contacted the chief counsel of the commission and said they would be monitoring the company's applications with the DEP.

"if there's any doubt about any permit issue, it should be resolved in favor of the citizens," said Unger, who also asked for more public access via the Internet to documents concerning the case.

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