A hearing Monday and yesterday addressed the mining permit
and the water permit comes under scrutiny today and tomorrow.
The non profit organization Potomac Riverkeeper with the
help of the George Washington Heritage Trail and the Gerrardstown Presbyterian
Church is appealing the surface mine and water pollution control permits issued
to North Mountain Shale.
The company plans to mine shale on 100 acres near
Gerrardstown. The shale will be used to make bricks by its affiliated company,
Ed Merrifield, Potomac Riverkeeper president, said his
organization hopes to prevent the quarry from adversely affecting nearby
property and waterways.
“We know that there have been some groundwater issues,”
Merrifield said. “There have been some dye traces that have shown up in
people’s ground water and drinking water wells and we’ve been told that there
are streams that will be blocked off from the sediments.”
Merrifield said pollution from the quarry could affect local
streams and ultimately the Potomac River and Chesapeake Bay.
Potomac Riverkeeper lawyers argued that the quarry will
create excess dust and pollution, and truck traffic will drive through historic
Gerrardstown damaging buildings.
They said the quarry will destroy the view and questioned
whether the sediment ponds the company is required to build will be large
Jennifer Hughes, Department of Environmental Protection
senior counsel, argued that the Potomac Riverkeeper lawyers did not present
sufficient evidence to prove that the quarry will create a hazard or destroy
the health and property rights of others.
Hughes said the process has been plagued with
“There were signs initially hung up all over town that said
‘stop mountaintop removal’ when clearly this has nothing to do with mountaintop
removal,” Hughes said.
“There are still signs up announcing this public hearing
that say ‘stop strip mining’ and it’s not a strip mine.”
Hughes believes a lot of the opposition to the quarry was
based on a misunderstanding of what exactly the project is.
“Well, it’s a shale quarry and the process that they use for
mining the shale is they essentially scoop it up with, they call them pans,
there’s no blasting that’s occurring at the site,” Hughes said.
“The maximum depth that they’ll be excavating is 50 feet,
the way it works is they scoop the material sort of laterally and put it into
piles and let it weather and haul it off site to have it processed into bricks
at another site,” Hughes added.
The three groups opposed to the permits spent all day Monday
presenting witnesses. Members of the Surface Mining Board also went to
Gerrardstown to see where the quarry is located.
Yesterday the DEP and North Mountain Shale did not call any
witnesses and asked the Surface Mining Board to issue an immediate, or
directed, verdict to keep the permits in place.
Wendy Radcliff, assistant attorney general conducted the
hearing. She said a directed verdict is a difficult standard to meet.
“It’s a gamble on the behalf of North Mountain Shale and DEP
to say ‘look, we believe what’s in the record right now is enough to validate
the decision that is made. We don’t have to put on any testimony to be able to
combat that decision,’” Radcliff said.
The Surface Mining Board agreed in part with the DEP and threw
out all but two of the issues raised.
The Board is still considering whether the sediment ponds
North Mountain Shale must build will be big enough. The Board will hear more
testimony about that issue July 11 in Charleston.
The Board is also considering whether the quarry will affect
the view in historic Gerrardstown.
Another two-day hearing starts this morning as the state
Environmental Quality Board considers an appeal of the company’s water
pollution control permit. Radcliff said this hearing will have a narrower
“And that deals only with the water permit issues,” Radcliff
“There’s no discussion about dust, there’s no discussion about trucks,
there’s not a discussion about how many trees are lost, the view, any of those
things, it’s just whether or not the effluent limits that were placed in the
permit are adequate to protect the waters.”