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Quarry opponents ask for county's support

February 26, 2009|By MATTHEW UMSTEAD

MARTINSBURG, W.Va. -- Opponents of a shale quarry proposed near Gerrardstown, W.Va., asked the Berkeley County Commission on Thursday to sign a resolution in support of their fight against an industrial mining project they say poses an environmental and health threat to the area.

"We are here today because we like Berkeley County as much as you do," said Wendy Hudock, who spoke on behalf of more than a dozen people who joined her at Thursday's commission meeting.

Hudock is part of Citizens Alliance for a Responsible Environment (CARE), a group formed last year to fight the mining proposal just outside the community west of Inwood, W.Va., in southern Berkeley County.

A mining application filed last year by North Mountain LLC with the West Virginia Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) could be deemed technically complete by the DEP in the coming months, according to the Randy Moore, the department's permit supervisor.

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North Mountain LLC was incorporated in January 2008 by C.L. Christian III, who also serves as president of Continental Brick Co. just outside of Martinsburg, according to West Virginia Secretary of State Betty Ireland's office.

After the current application was submitted last year to the DEP by North Mountain LLC, Moore said the DEP's Division of Mining and Reclamation reviewed it and asked for technical corrections. Those corrections included additional water monitoring, Moore said.

"They should be providing us their corrections in the next month or two," Moore said.

After the application is deemed to be technically complete, the DEP will give public notice and residents may comment and request a public hearing, Moore said.

Eight of 27 "milestones" still need to be completed in order for the application to be considered technically complete, according to the DEP's Web site.

Of those, Moore confirmed the DEP had yet to receive clearance from West Virginia Division of Culture and History's State Historic Preservation Office (SHPO).

In November 2008, SHPO requested a computerized simulation to demonstrate the proposed visual impacts to the ridge line by the quarry project.

One of several historic properties in close proximity to the project site is Oban Hall, a farmhouse built in 1825 by a prominent merchant and now on the National Register of Historic Places.

Hudock told the commission Thursday the proposed quarry at a 422-acre site would ruin the scenic viewshed of North Mountain, a 1,300-foot ridge, and noted Pocahontas County, W.Va., recently denied a 76-acre quarry because of scenery and property value concerns.

She also noted a U.S. Supreme Court decision last month that said permits could not be issued for new discharges into impaired waterways unless there is a cleanup plan and compliance schedule showing when the waterway would be removed from the impaired list.

"It makes no sense to allow a massive new quarry to locate in one of the fastest growing residential areas in Berkeley County," Hudock said.

After Hudock finished speaking, Commission President Ronald K. Collins said he would have county legal counsel Norwood Bentley III review the resolution request and take her comments under advisement.

A public hearing about the mining project in May 2008 attracted about 150 people, and practically every person who commented voiced strong opposition to the plan.

More information about CARE and the status of the quarry mining application is available at http://northmountain.org/.

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