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Controversial quarry gets permits to begin operating

Permit does not allow North Mountain Shale or any other company to target any mineral other than Martinsburg Shale

January 26, 2011|By MATTHEW UMSTEAD | matthewu@herald-mail.com

MARTINSBURG, W.Va. — The state Department of Environmental Protection issued permits Wednesday allowing a controversial quarry to begin operating in Gerrardstown, W.Va., the agency said.

"The agency heard the concerns expressed by several members of the community and is requiring the company to take a number of steps outside of the usual parameters of the permit," Tom Clarke, the director of the Department of Environmental Protection Division of Mining and Reclamation, said in a news release.

"The agency concluded North Mountain Shale's application met all applicable rules and regulations, the proposed operation will have minimal and temporary environmental impacts, and full reclamation will be achieved when mining is complete," Clarke said.

In addition to the quarry permit, which is good for five years, the DEP issued North Mountain Shale a National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System permit for the operation's water discharge from the property, which is west of Dominion Road off W.Va. 51, the DEP's announcement said.

Wendy Hudock, a leading member of Citizens Alliance for a Responsible Environment, which is opposed to the quarry, said Wednesday was "a sad day in Berkeley County."

Hudock declined to elaborate further, saying she and other members of CARE had yet to review exactly what the state has permitted North Mountain to do.

Opponents previously indicated they would consider filing a lawsuit to fight the project if the permits were issued.

The DEP said in the news release that North Mountain Shale must maintain vegetation and landscaping to mitigate any visual intrusion upon both Prospect Hill, a historic property that Hudock and her husband, Stevan, own, as well as the nearby Gerrardstown Historic District.

North Mountain Shale, which is affiliated with Continental Brick Co. in Martinsburg, also would have to limit excavation and hauling to daylight hours, Monday through Saturday.

When notified by the public that a funeral or memorial service is to take place in the cemetery next to the haulage access road, the company is to make "reasonable efforts" to avoid conflicts, according to the news release.

"The company is permitted to remove the shale up to the 900-foot elevation mark with only ten acres of active mineral removal at any time, and is required to reclaim each section before moving on to the next," according to the DEP announcement.

The permit issued does not allow North Mountain Shale or any other company to target any mineral other than the Martinsburg Shale.

"Some people were concerned that this permit would lead to larger disturbances in the future and we have addressed that with this permit," Clarke said in the news release.

Hundreds of people concerned about North Mountain Shale's project, which proposed to quarry on a 100-acre site, packed the dining area for Mountain Ridge Intermediate School near Gerrardstown in April 2010 for a public hearing.

A Continental Brick Co. employee who spoke said the shale was needed as a blending material to allow the company, in business since 1917, to continue to operate.

All three Berkeley County Commissioners, along with a number of community leaders and state Sen. John Unger, D-Berkeley/Jefferson aired concerns about the project's impact on water, air, road conditions, property values and overall quality of life.

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