March 2008 – State & Province News
by Therese Dunphy, Executive Editor
The Arizona Republic reports that a research geologist with the Arizona Geological Survey confirmed that there is no asbestos associated with mining operations in the Agua Fria River bed. The geologist addressed concerns that sand and gravel mines may send asbestos into the air at a Maricopa County Mining District Recommendation Committee meeting. A former member of the advisory board, Lyle Tuttle, said that residents were concerned that mining companies would crush concrete that contained asbestos, but the board chairman, Frank Mendola of Cemex, pointed out that an asbestos survey has to be conducted prior to a building’s demolition. Any asbestos found, he noted, had to be removed from the building and sent to an asbestos landfill. Board member Tom Lowry of Vulcan Materials Co. added that Vulcan has a landfill for recycle work and inspects every load that comes in.
The California Climate Action Registry (The Registry) designated Vulcan Materials Co., Western Division, as a Climate Action Leader following verification of the company’s 2006 inventory report. During recent years, U.S. companies increasingly have begun to voluntarily track greenhouse gas emissions as part of their corporate sustainability programs. During the development of its greenhouse gas inventory, Vulcan began to explore opportunities to quantify its contributions to reducing greenhouse gases at its facilities.
A 12-year effort to permit a gravel mine on 200 acres of the 8,000-acre M&T Ranch, southwest of Chico, failed on a 3-2 vote of the Butte County supervisors in late January. According to the Chico Enterprise-Record, the vote came a day after a seven-hour marathon public hearing concerning the pros and cons of the project. Baldwin Contracting Co. has a lease on the land and had been trying to get permission to remove up to 5.5 million cubic yards of gravel from the site. In February 2007, the Butte County Planning Commission granted conditional approval of the project. That approval included 35 conditions. The decision was immediately appealed and 11 months of board of supervisors hearings ensued. During the final discussion, two members expressed concerns about the mine’s impact on traffic patterns, road wear, and air quality issues. Those two were joined by a third member in voting to affirm the appeal.
Indian River County officials renewed the permits of two sand mines on 82nd Avenue despite neighbor concerns about truck traffic and air quality, however those complaints may lead the county commission to pull the compliance bonds, the Press Journal reports. If that happens, the commission will effectively fine Ranch Road Lake Sand Mine and Range Road Mine and — at least temporarily — shut down their businesses for allowing their trucks to violate county regulations, the newspaper reports. At issue is the fact that trucks are traveling south to State Road 60 rather than taking the permitted route to the north. The two companies have bonds of a combined $69,590 to ensure compliance with county regulations. The chief enforcement officer for the county has recommended that the commission pull both bonds. Since the mines can’t run without the bonds, they would be closed until they post new ones.
After a zoning variance was thrown out in court, Dr. Phil Hecht, a veterinarian, is trying to keep his gravel mining permit intact as he tries to submit a rezoning request to Oronoko Township. In December, a judge ruled that the Oronoko Zoning Board of Appeals erred in February 2006 when it granted Hecht a variance. The township board granted a mining permit in 2007 based on that variance. Hecht’s site in Berrien Springs is zoned residential, but he is trying to have it rezoned as agricultural, which has been the land’s longtime use. According to the South Bend Tribune, Hecht says that he has spent $30,000 trying to secure a $60 permit. He asked the township to temporarily suspend his permit as he seeks the rezoning. The board members voiced concerns as to whether Hecht has a permit since the permit it granted in 2007 is null and void following the judge’s ruling. The board tabled the request until it secures a legal opinion from the township attorney.
A 64-year-old man died in late January after falling from a platform into water in the sand pit at Dartmouth Sand and Gravel in Great Bend. According to the Associated Press, Robert Deines and his son were working at the pit when his son left to dump a load of sand and returned to find his father missing. When the father couldn’t be reached by cell phone, his son called Great Bend firefighters, who summoned a dive team that found Deines’ body within minutes. Authorities are not sure what caused Deines to fall from the platform.
The Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection announced that it had assessed $20,700 in penalties against R. Bates and Sons, Inc., of Clinton for solid waste management violations that occurred at the company’s sand and gravel pit on South Meadow Road in Clinton. During a December 2006 inspection, agency personnel noted the presence of asphalt, brick, concrete, tires, wood waste, metal, and miscellaneous solid wastes which were not permitted for disposal at the site. The company agreed to remove all the materials off site for recycling or disposal. It will also pay a $2,000 penalty to the state and will fund a supplemental environmental project valued at $18,700.
On Sept. 18, 2007, Alamo Township officials unanimously voted to adopt a settlement agreement between the township and Aggregate Industries. According to the Kalamazoo Gazette, that agreement paved the way for the company to begin operation of a 165-acre site. Since then a group calling themselves Recall Alamo 5 has launched a petition drive to remove all five officials from office. In early February, four of the supervisors successfully avoided a recall election when the group failed to collect enough signatures to get their names on the ballot. The fifth supervisor, Bob Vliestra, may be on the ballot if the local board of elections certifies the signatures delivered to the Kalamazoo County Clerk’s office. A total of 466 signatures were necessary for each board member. A member of Recall Alamo 5 told the newspaper that the group had collected about 475 signatures for Vliestra and at least 300 for each of the four remaining board members. The ballot language crafted by recall advocates states that board members violated the Michigan Open Meetings Act by failing to provide proper notice of the meeting. Board members have denied that charge.
In late January, Manchester Sand & Gravel unveiled its plans for a new 428-unit housing project in Hooksett. According to The Union Leader, the project drew praise for its design, but also raised concerns about increased traffic on an already congested roadway. The project, Villages at Head’s Pond, features a mix of single-family homes, townhouses, and condominiums as well as a three-acre, tree-lined town common and a 213-acre public park to be donated to the town for recreation. Home prices are expected to range from $300,000 to $650,000. Construction will be completed in eight phases during the next 10 to 12 years.
George Harms Construction of Freehold, a company building the first phase of the $400 million Route 52 causeway in Ocean City, bought a 100-acre sand and gravel pit in Petersburg. A spokesperson for the company said that the purchase had nothing to do with the ambitious construction project. The Press of Atlantic City reports that the contractor purchased the site from Caldwell Sand & Gravel for $2.8 million.
Later this year, construction of a sand miners’ memorial will begin on Long Island. According to Newsday, sand mining was once the area’s largest business. In the 1800s, as many as 800 workers lived in barracks at the sand banks; those workers were largely comprised of immigrants, including those from Italy, Poland, Germany, Scandinavia, and Russia. Efforts to build a memorial began in 1996. Since then, two designs have been drafted with the second accompanied by an anonymous donation to fund the monument. The first design, drafted in 2005, depicts a sand miner pushing a wheel barrel full of sand. Emerging from that sand is the New York City skyline. That second design features several figures representing the different jobs in the mines and on the barges. It is centered around large hands pouring sand on the Manhattan skyline. A final decision as to which design will be used has not been made, however construction is expected to begin this summer.
Thomas C. Stitt, of Kittanning, Pa., was awarded a federal patent for developing a ground circuit impedance measurement method. The Patent Office noted that the “novel ground circuit impedance device and method measure impedance in underground mine power systems connecting to an outside electrical power substation outside the mine and using portable transformers in the mine.” It also noted that it would “measure impedance in above-ground applications involving very long electrical power circuits such as those use to supply power to long conveyors and other electrical power equipment found in metal/non-metal mines, including limestone quarries, sand and gravel operations, and other surface mines.”
At Aggregates Manager press time, two meetings were held to discuss a new gravel mine in Atoka. The Commercial Appeal reports that the first meeting, held by the Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation, was to solicit comments from the public concerning Memphis Stone and Gravel’s request for a new operation on a 500-acre site near the Tipton-Shelby county line. Immediately following that meeting, the Rosemark Civic Club held a meeting to discuss the potential impact of truck traffic on the community. The group opposes the operation. Memphis Stone and Gravel has pledged to meet or exceed water quality standards, build berms to reduce noise, screen the operation from view, use water trucks to control dust, and take other measures to reduce the impact.
The Dorchester County Council shelved a proposal to limit sand mines to industrial areas following protests that included property rights concerns, but its chairman agreed to send a letter to the Department of Health and Environmental Control (DHEC) as well as the Department of Transportation (DOT). According to The Post and Courier, the letters will urge the DHEC to consider roads when approving mine permits and the DOT to become more involved in the process. Concerns on road costs arose when the DHEC permitted a mine that will place increased truck traffic on a roadway the county recently spent $100,000 to pave. Council members voiced concerns that the mine would conduct its business, but would ruin a road and the county would not have money to repair it. A spokesperson for the DHEC told the newspaper that it does not consider roads when approving a mine permit, but does hold public hearings before granting mine rights. A DOT spokesperson said that its only involvement in permitting is to make sure the legal load limits are followed.
Bruce T. Chattin, executive director of the Washington Aggregates & Concrete Association (WACA) in Des Moines, Wash., was named the National Stone, Sand & Gravel Association’s (NSSGA) 2007 State Aggregates Association Executive of the Year. Each year, NSSGA recognizes one of its state counterparts for exemplary service to the aggregates industry. The award is bestowed to recognize the work of the state association that has had a significant beneficial impact on the aggregates industry at the regional or national levels. “NSSGA was most impressed with Bruce’s leadership and service on our Sustainability Task Force, helping guide and mold national policy into the NSSGA board’s adopted Sustainability Guiding Principles,” said NSSGA President & CEO Joy Wilson in a press release. “We value all he is doing in Washington state and nationally in helping us discern environmentally responsible options.” The award will be presented March 12 at NSSGA’s 2008 Annual Convention Honor Awards Breakfast in Las Vegas.
Approximately two dozen people appeared before the Grey Highlands council in late January to voice concerns about a new gravel pit in the former Osprey Township. According to the Collingwood Enterprise Bulletin, Durham Stone and Paving Inc. applied for a license to operate a gravel pit on 174.8 acres. In its documentation, Durham Stone notes that once extraction is complete, the pit will be aggressively rehabilitated back to an agricultural use with reforestation at one end. Protesters claimed that truck traffic would overwhelm the rural community and complained that the property was in the midst of farms.
New York Mining Controversy Continues
Public hearings could begin this month on a trio of new local mining laws drafted by the Skaneateles Town Board. According to The Post-Standard, the board introduced the three laws in January, but public hearings would not be scheduled until Onondaga County and town planning and zoning boards reviewed the laws.
Last June, the town board voted 3-2 to pass a local law known as the Orange Alternate. It allows the expansion of mining operations in Shepard Settlement, but drew boundaries around the town’s current mining district. More than 100 people attended the public meeting at which that law was passed — with many opposed to it.
Following is a summary of the three laws.
Local Law A would repeal the current open pit mining overlay district and prohibit new mining. Current mining would become a non-conforming use.
Local Law B would clarify the zoning boundaries by changing the wording in the current law, which restricts mines from operating within 200 feet of residences and within 100 feet of waterways. It would also define those guidelines as boundaries rather than setbacks.
Local Law C would create a “floating zone” that would allow mining in designated areas, but would give the town board the authority to review new mining requests on a case-by-case basis.