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Testimony in quarry permit appeal focuses on water quality

June 08, 2011|By MATTHEW UMSTEAD | matthew.umstead@herald-mail.com

MARTINSBURG, W.Va. — Testimony heard Wednesday in the appeal of a state environmental agency's decision to permit a brick manufacturer's subsidiary to build a quarry in Gerrardstown, W.Va., focused on protection of nearby streams.

The state Environmental Quality Board convened Wednesday to consider an appeal of the permit issued by the West Virginia Department of Environmental Protection for North Mountain Shale LLC's proposed 100-acre quarry site off Dominion Road.

The appeals were filed by Potomac Riverkeeper Inc. and Stevan Hudock, whose property is next to the proposed quarry.

Assistant Attorney General Wendy Radcliff, who serves as the board's legal counsel, said Wednesday that a decision by the board would be made no earlier than mid-August.

In Wednesday's proceeding, attorneys for opponents of the quarry challenged the appropriateness of the water-quality monitoring contained in the pollution discharge permit and questioned whether the permitted limits of pollution discharge could be achieved.

Hudock's attorney, Ruth McQuade, questioned how the operation would affect an unnamed tributary of Mill Creek that travels from North Mountain Shale property on her client's historic farm, Prospect Hill.

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DEP legal counsel Jennifer Hughes said in opening remarks that evidence would show the limits imposed for North Mountain Shale would match "stacks" of others with the same requirements.

She and attorney Robert McLusky, who is representing North Mountain Shale, also said the agency found it unfair to impose certain turbidity or water-clarity requirements on the company because there are existing pollution contributors, such as failing septic systems.

Hughes also noted that unnamed tributaries of Mill Creek that would receive discharge from quarry ponds are not trout streams.

Hudock's wife, Wendy, testified Wednesday that quarrying that apparently happened on the North Mountain Shale property in late 2007 and 2008 caused a pond on their property to become cloudy. The pond, which the Hudocks dubbed Beaver Pond, is fed by one of at least two unnamed tributaries on the North Mountain Shale property.

Hudock said the pond has remained cloudy, but at least one DEP official testified that he saw the pond at one point while walking the property with Stevan Hudock and indicated the pond water was clear.

The company purchased more than 400 acres before applying for the permits, according to county documents.

The proceedings Wednesday followed two days of testimony presented to the state Surface Mining Board which is weighing evidence presented in a separate appeal of the DEP mining permit issued to the subsidiary of Continental Brick Co. for the shale quarry operation.

The five-year mining permit is for a 100-acre site, but McLusky said at Surface Mining Board hearing Monday that mineral removal was only being eyed in 41 acres in two pit sites by North Mountain Shale and that no blasting would be employed for extraction.

The Surface Mining Board's decision isn't expected until late August or September because more testimony is scheduled to be presented next month, Radcliff said.

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