Hearing set for appeal of Gerrardstown quarry permit

Group wants hearings to be held in Eastern Panhandle rather than Charleston

March 05, 2011|By MATTHEW UMSTEAD |

MARTINSBURG, W.Va. — An evidentiary hearing has been scheduled on May 12 for a clean water advocacy group's appeal of a pollutant discharge permit issued for a controversial proposed quarry operation in Gerrardstown, W.Va.

The Environmental Quality Board's hearing, which is posted on the Department of Environmental Protection's website, may be held in the Eastern Panhandle, but DEP spokeswoman Kathy Cosco could not say whether hearing arrangements had been finalized.

Environmental advocates have appealed DEP permits that were issued in January to North Mountain Shale LLC for a proposed 100-acre quarry operation off W.Va. 51.

The appeals by Potomac Riverkeeper Inc. were filed with the quality board and the state's Surface Mining Board.

Gerrardstown Presbyterian Church and Washington Heritage Trail Inc. also have joined Potomac Riverkeeper  in challenging the quarry permit.

It was unclear whether a hearing had been scheduled by the state mining board, but based on how previous cases have been handled, Cosco said the mining board's proceeding may very well be held the day after the quality board hearing.

Brent Walls of Potomac Riverkeeper Inc. asked the Berkeley County Council Thursday night to file a "friend of the court" brief in support of the appeal and to ask state officials to hold appeal hearings in the Eastern Panhandle, rather than in Charleston.

"We would like it to be held here in Martinsburg," said Walls, citing the outpouring of concern already demonstrated at previous hearings.

"With the 500 people that showed up at the public hearing (last year), the 787 letters in opposition to the quarry that were sent to DEP in opposition to the quarry ... this definitely warrants these two boards to come to this area and have the hearings," Walls said.

Objections outlined in the quarry appeal include claims that the permit failed to require adequate control of fugitive particulate matter and that the DEP failed to investigate the potential impact on the public health of the particulate emissions and pollutant discharges to surrounding waters.

The appeal also claims the proposed hauling road, Destiny Drive off Dominion Road, does not meet state regulations, and that the quarry operation will adversely impact Gerrardstown's historic and cultural resources.

DEP officials have said they factored concerns of the residents into their decision to issue the permits and have included a number of conditions to mitigate visual intrusion on neighboring historic properties.

The agency said it also limited the amount of acreage from which shale could be removed at any given time by North Mountain Shale, which is affiliated with Continental Brick Co.

County Council President William L. "Bill" Stubblefield said they could not take action Thursday night on whether to file an amicus brief because council members had not officially received copies of the appeals in time to review them before the meeting.

However, Stubblefield, along with council members Anthony J. "Tony" Petruccii and Elaine Mauck, voiced support for Walls' request that the county ask that the quality and mining boards hold their hearings in the Eastern Panhandle, rather than Charleston.

Petrucci and Mauck told Walls that they supported the pending appeal of the permits based on concerns they had already received regarding the proposed quarry.   

"All the problems that we are having with the Chesapeake Bay, and this is just one more major mess-up that somebody seems to want to dump on us," Mauck said.

Council member Doug Copenhaver did not comment, and council member James "Jim" Whitacre was absent.

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