Pennsylvania DEP visited New Hanover Township in March 2016

On Tuesday, March 29, 2016, representatives from the DEP District Mining Office in Pottsville, PA, and also representatives from the DEP Southeast Regional Office in Norristown, PA, held a public meeting at the Boyertown Area Junior High East (auditorium) starting at 5:30 pm.  

This meeting was held to give the community the opportunity to make comments to the DEP regarding the pending renewal application of Gibraltar Rock for an NPDES Permit.  This is the National Pollution Discharge Elimination System Permit required for the operation of all rock quarries.  Gibraltar Rock was granted the permit in April 2005, it must be renewed every five years, and this is the first attempt for renewal.

What is the position of the Paradise Watchdogs/Ban the Quarry?  We strongly recommend that the DEP refrain from issuing this permit until the HOFF VC contamination site is cleaned up. We strongly oppose risking the health and welfare of all area residents, their animals, and their water supply, by spreading the contaminants through quarry blasting.

We are also very concerned about those downstream in the Perkiomen Watershed.  The New Hanover - Upper Frederick Elementary School has a private well, all wells at the Frederick Living community are private, and the New Hanover Recreation Center on Hoffmansville Road also has a private well. 

What happened at this public meeting on March 29? Who attended?

The DEP officials came out in droves: Virginia Cain, Community Relations Coordinator; Mike Menghini, Manager of District Mining Office in Pottsville; Colin Wade, Clean-up Specialist in Norristown DEP office; Nate Houtz, Permit Chief; Ignacy Nasilowski, Licensed Prof. Geologist; Craig Lambeth, DEP attorney; and agents from the DEP-Norristown office – Ragesh Patel, Sachin Shankar, Patrick Peterson. (Your taxes at work!)

At 5:45 pm - Presentation by the DEP and EarthRes. EarthRes is the consulting firm hired by Gibraltar Rock. Mike Menghini (DEP) explained the permit process. He noted that the current Gibraltar Rock application (GR-4) is not part of this permit renewal. If their GR-4 application is approved, they may have to file for a new permit for that acreage.

Lou Vittorio, for EarthRes and Gibraltar Rock, explained why he does not believe that if the quarry starts, the contamination at the Good Oil site will not affect the quarry, the private water supplies downstream, and the local creeks and streams.

After that little-believed explanation, Mr. Vittorio described what would be done "in the unlikely event there is contamination in Gibraltar Rock’s sentinel wells".

At 6:00 pm – Panel takes question from the public

Twelve residents asked good, tough questions of the Panel - - two parents of elementary school children, one man with terminal cancer from drinking the toxic water from the Good Oil site, residents very close to the Gibraltar Rock and Good Oil site, and some residents from Upper Frederick township. More than once, the Panel hesitated in their responses, were indecisive causing more than one official to respond to the same question, and my notes indicated some contradictory statements by the Panel.

Chris Mullaney, Esq (Ban the Quarry attorney), asked Colin Wade (clean-up specialist) to look at a map showing several wells on Gibraltar Rock’s property that has chemicals. Gibraltar Rock employees and the DEP have denied that any chemicals are located in test wells on GR’s land. This denial is based on most recent sampling that indicates the chemicals are reduced at this time. Colin Wade admitted to Attorney Mullaney that yes, contamination has been found on GR’s land.

Our attorney also asked the DEP to look at the situation at the Malvern TCE site. Mike Menghini commented that Malvern is a different type of quarry. Funny thing – in the current Gibraltar Rock hearings before the Zoning Hearing Board, Gibraltar Rock’s witness is using the Malvern quarry as an example to support their theories that blasting will not spread any chemicals from the HOFF VC site.

At 7:00 pm - Pubic Hearing began

(Court reporter hired by the DEP took testimony.)

The DEP issued a time limit of 3-5 minutes for each person. April 28, 2016, is the deadline to submit additional testimony regarding this permit.

Robert Brant, Esq, New Hanover Township special counsel since 2001, told the DEP that the Board of Supervisors wants to assure that residents are protected, and that is still their mandate in New Hanover Township.

Township consultant, Toby Kessler, P.E. prepared a Power Point presentation but due to the time limit, was not able to present it. He entered it as an exhibit in this public hearing. Toby also testified there is the potential for drinking water to be affected if blasting begins. He finds there are preferential pathways for contamination to travel to the quarry site. He noted that "aeration" as a remediation is not recommended for the chemical 1,4-Dioxane. The Borough of Ambler considered a treatment system and it is very expensive.

Chris Mullaney, Esq. Entered exhibits.

For the DEP to say "it’s impossible" for contaminants to spread throughout the area with blasting is dishonest on their part. The DEP says they have a good sense of where the plume is located but it’s still being studied, therefore, IT’S WRONG to proceed.

The fact that Gibraltar Rock will not permit many test wells to be installed on their land, IT’S WRONG. Chris said the "time limit" for this public hearing IS WRONG.

There were many residents who testified for this public hearing: Rev. Jim Shelly, Annette Burns, Ross Snook, Bob Dodge, John Auman, William Miller, Jim Jessum, Bob Thomas, Keith Leonard, John Founds, Francine Ripley, Deb Harner, Paul Ripley, Adam Weikert, Lois Pettigrew, Bob Swanick, Russell Plank, Bob Meyers, Lisa Nolan, Will Frosh, Dave Minnich, Jerry McAllister, Ron Sekellick. Ross Snook, Rev. Jim Shelly, and Annette Burns added to their testimony prior to the conclusion of the hearing.

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