Quarry Opponents Ready for Appeal

WINNSBORO (Feb. 12, 2016) – Residents of Rockton Thruway and the Middle Six community will get one more shot next week in their efforts to keep a rock quarry out of their back yard.

The S.C. Mining Council will hold an appeal hearing Feb. 16-19 in the Board Room of S.C. Department of Health and Environmental Control (DHEC) at 2600 Bull St., Columbia. Residents are appealing the mining permit (I-002053) granted by DHEC last April for Winnsboro Crushed Stone, LLC.

According to the appeal, filed last June, DHEC overlooked elements of the Clean Water Act during its permitting process, failed to provide environmental justice for minority and low- to moderate-income residents in the area and committed errors in its evaluation of state approved safety regulations.

Winnsboro Crushed Stone intends to mine granite on 365.8 acres of a 923.2-acre tract off Rockton Thruway. According to the appeal, the permitted area includes natural wetlands, as well as water sources for local residents. The quarrying and processing of granite uses quite a bit of water, and while the mining company has said that water would be a fixed amount contained within a closed system of ponds, the appellants are worried about loss of water pressure and loss of water in local streams as the proposed mining pit delves deeper into the water table.

” . . . if pit drawdown depressurizes the local surficial aquifer, then there is likely to be significant loss of water to surface streams, and subsequently the wetlands area,” the appeal states.

Appellants are also asking Crushed Stone to install one or more near-surface aquifer monitoring wells. DHEC’s requirement that the company install monitor wells and observe pre-mining water levels for six months is not enough, appellants say, to produce a complete study. Instead, they are asking that the pre-mining conditions be monitored for 12 months. Those wells also need to be deeper than the recommended 150 feet, appellants say, in order to “mirror the depth of local area drinking wells where the water level is known to be.”

“How do you protect pre-mining conditions of groundwater, when you don’t have any data on what the pre-mining conditions are?” Dorothy Brandenburg, the community liaison for quarry opponents, asked rhetorically when contacted by The Voice this week.

Appellants also state that their requests to DHEC for “evidence of sufficient evaluation of the wetlands” have not been honored. Noting a letter from the Army Corps of Engineers, which advises against work on or around the wetlands until the company receives Approved Jurisdictional Determination, appellants are asking the Mining Council’s Appeals Board to “reconsider this permit until an adequate Environmental Impact Study can be completed and evaluated.”

Another DHEC oversight in the permitting process, appellants claim, is failure to note that a required map demonstrating entrance and exit routes of mining traffic had not been included in the application.

“This is yet another oversight of (DHEC), concurrent with other mistakes made in the permit issuance,” the appeal letter states. “In their response to questions from citizens, (DHEC) employees claim that pointing to a map at the public hearing is sufficient evidence for intended operations.”

While Rockton Thruway residents opposed to the quarry have gotten the lion’s share of attention, the appeal states that the Middle Six community, just on the north side of the permitted area, has gone largely ignored, thereby giving rise to the charge of “lack of environmental justice.”

The hearing begins at 9 a.m. each day in room 3420. A final order, according to DHEC regulations, will be due within 30 days of the conclusion of the hearing.

 

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