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New Hanover Quarry Hearing Ends after 28 Months
Written by Bradley Schlegel, Staff Writer

            After 22 meetings over 28 months, the matter of a zoning hearing involving a special exception request by a Bucks County mining company to quarry an additional 25 acres in New Hanover concluded last week.

            On Thursday, August 3, three lawyers representing the applicant, a community organization and the township, respectively, presented their closing arguments to New Hanover's Zoning Hearing Board in the procedure known as Gibraltar Rock IV.

            Gibraltar Rock, Inc. and Sahara Sand, Inc. is seeking a special exception to the municipality's zoning use regulation for the vacant parcels in the township's HI - Heavy Industrial Zoning District. The application - heard initially on April 9, 2015 - lists two parcels in the township's HI - Heavy Industrial Zoning District. They include an 18.1-acre plot near the northwest corner of Church Road and Hoffmansville Road, along with a lot at 2180 Colflesh Road covering 7.31 acres.

            Stephen Harris, the applicant's attorney, argued that he has made the case for the board to approve the application. He attempted to assert a sense of certainty that mining will occur at the two parcels.  "We are going to be quarrying at this location in New Hanover Township," said Harris, who spoke first.

            Rowan Keenan, an attorney for Paradise Watchdogs/Ban the Quarry, asked the three-person panel not to approve the application.  "You are allowed not to grant this," said Keenan, who went second. "This is not the way you want to celebrate Christmas this year."

            Keenan told the members they can deny the application if they decide the proposal is "injurious to the health safety and welfare of the community." He argued that allowing mining on the two parcels, which is less than 1/8 of a mile from the Good Oil property, which is the source of an underground plume of volatile organic chemicals, would change the flow and dynamics of the toxic and hazardous chemicals.

            According to Keenan, a licensed geologist with a Collegeville firm provided the hearing's most credible evidence during the hearing. In July of 2016, Gilbert Marshall, of Marshall Geo-Science presented evidence that the mining and dewatering of the property north of Hoffmansville Road would draw the plume into the pit of the proposed quarry.

            Bob Brant, the lawyer representing New Hanover Township, told the board to deny the application based on credible evidence from two geologists presented during the hearing.

            Brant identified the testimony of a Toby Kesler. In October, Kessler, a licensed hydrogeologist, testified that the applicant failed to provide a fate and transport analysis to evaluate the possible migration of contaminants from the former Good Oil property into the proposed quarry areas. He also described the method proposed by the Silvi Group to treat any contaminated water that migrates to the quarry pit as inadequate.

            According to Harris, opposing counsel failed to present any evidence proving that mining operation would definitely create a health hazard. He said the application can't be denied due to perceived harms.  "We heard a lot of may, could, and might," the lawyer said. "That does not establish a high probability that what they are concerned about will happen."

            Harris said his client would be forced to comply with a series of conditions imposed by the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection if quarrying is permitted. Those conditions include required quarterly testing groundwater for its level and potential contaminants and the requirement to complete pre-blast surveys of surrounding properties. According to the lawyer, the DEP has the authority to close the quarry if a pattern of violations develop.

            Though he does not expect the operation to encounter groundwater for 10 to 15 years, Harris told the board his client would be required by the DEP to treat any contaminated water that seeps into the quarry floor prior to discharge.

            The board is expected to render its decision during a September 7 meeting, according to Zoning Hearing Solicitor Edward Skypala.





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