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Community Group Joins Appeal of Mining Permit Approval
Written by Bradley Schlegel, Staff Writer

            A New Hanover non-profit environmental preservation community group has joined the township's board of supervisors in opposing a recently awarded a surface mining permit covering 241 acres for the Gibraltar Rock quarry. Last month, Paradise Watchdogs and a township resident filed a notice of appeal form with the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania Environmental Hearing Board.

            A ten-page application addendum lists 29 examples of how the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection abused its discretion and violated state law when it reissued a mining permit to the Silvi Group on July 2 for the quarry between Church Road, Route 663 and Route 73.

            The document, drafted by Red Hill attorney Christopher P. Mullaney, argues that the issuance was an abuse of discretion and violated the Noncoal Surface Mining Conservation and Reclamation Act, the Clean Streams Law, Air Pollution Control Act, the Hazardous Sites Cleanup Act and the federal Clean Water Act.

             The hearing board is expected to begin hearing the case in January, according to Celeste Bish, president of the organization's executive committee. Bish said Tuesday afternoon that she suspects the entire process could take between one and two years.

            The township's board voted in July to appeal the permit issuance. In the July 31 notice, Solicitor Robert Brant argues, among other things, that the permit's effluent limitations and monitoring requirements are not sufficient to protect the environment and the municipality's residence.

            Speaking only for himself, supervisors chairman Chuck Garner stated in a Sept. 4 email message that he voted for the appeal due to concerns that the conditions attached to the permit did not adequately address public health and safety issues.

            According to Bish, Paradise Watchdogs' ultimate goal is to prevent more death and illness in this area. She writes in an email message received Wednesday that when the quarry was proposed in 2000, the group's major concern was exposure to silica, which can lead to lung cancer, pulmonary tuberculosis, and airways diseases, according to information posted on the U.S. Center for Disease Control's website.

            Currently, the focus has shifted to preventing the spreading of eight volatile organic compounds discovered on the Good Oil property near the proposed quarry in observation wells and monitoring wells. According to Bish, DEP officials discovered 18 chemicals in surface wells that exceeded the government's "human health criteria."

            According to the addendum filed on behalf of the community group, the DEP abused its discretion in several ways, including a failure to adequately protect and safeguard against the danger of pollution from the Hoff VC Site spreading to the waters and air of the Commonwealth and the drinking water supply of the nearby residents and appellants of the surrounding area as a result of the operation of the quarry and adequately consider the details of a July 1, 2016 hydrogeological impact/proposed quarry dewatering activities report. 

            The document lists Paradise Watchdogs and John C. Auman, a resident of Church Road in New Hanover, as parties in the appeal. It claims the state agency failed to conduct a cancer/health study to learn and consider that there have been cases of cancer resulting in death around the quarry area with contaminated wells on Layfield and Hoffmansville roads.

            It also claims the agency failed to require extensive well testing in the proposed pit areas and failed to require Gibraltar to test rock, soil and stockpiles on a basis frequent enough to sufficiently prevent, control and remediate hazardous substances.

            In addition, it claims the agency failed to consider the written comments and written objections of Appellant and all other Objectors, permitted quarrying in the Light Industrial District where it is prohibited and permitted a risk to public health by allowing contaminants to be pumped to the surface for discharge to the environment.

            The permit's monitoring requirements will not prevent that contamination from spreading from the site – based upon the existing geology and hydrogeology – into the Swamp Creek tributary and the air, according to the document. It states that groundwater immediately adjacent to the quarry include multiple hazardous substances, including Benzo(a)-Anthracene, Benzo(a)pryrene, Benzo(b)Fluor-anthene, Benzo(k)Fluor-anthene, bis(z-Ethyl-hexyl)phthalate, Chloro-benzene, Chrysene, 1,2 - Dichlorobenzene, 1,4 - Dichlorobenzene, 1 ,2-Dichloro-ethene, 1,1 Dicholoro-ethane, 1,1 Dichiorothene, Fluoran-thene, Pyrene, Trichioro-ethylene, 1,1,1 Trichloro-ethane, vinyl chloride, ethyl tert-butyl ether, 1,4 Dioxane, Dieldrin and Pentachiorophenol.





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