November 15, 2011
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The Columbus Council unanimously approved Vulcan Materials’ request to construct an elevated, enclosed conveyor to transport material from its quarry on the east side of the road to its existing processing plant on the west side of the road. According to the Ledger-Enquirer, two 12.5-foot-wide steel enclosure tubes will be erected and set in place 28 feet off the ground near the quarry’s entrance. Vulcan spokesperson Jimmy Flemming told the newspaper that the company believes the conveyors represent a safer alternative to shuttling material back and forth via truck. The agreement is for 50 years, but the city and Vulcan are able to revisit the issue every five years, as needed.
When is dirt dirty? That’s the debate between aggregate and landfill operators as the Illinois Pollution Control Board holds hearings about rules proposed by the state Environmental Protection Agency to define whether dirt and debris from construction and demolition sites is clean enough to be deposited in quarries. The Chicago News Cooperative says the proposed rule would require dirt headed for quarries to be tested for specific contaminants and could not be dumped if it exceeds safety limits. Quarries would also have to monitor groundwater once a year and report any problems to the state within 60 days. An attorney for the landfill group says its problem is with groundwater monitoring and protection. He scoffs at the notion that the group’s concerns are driven solely by lost business. A spokesperson for a quarry owner group says that the proposed screening requirements are redundant and notes that new rules would increase costs to deposit waste, a common activity among many city agencies.
Scotts Bluff County has asked a court to stop Western Engineering from mining sand and gravel near the North Platte River. The Republic reports that the complaint claims that a county road has been damaged. Further, the county says mining is a permit violation because a conditional-use permit for the mine expired in 1993 and mining on the site is not authorized. The company did not respond to the newspaper’s request for a comment.
Vulcan Materials Co. recently renewed its support for the land and water conservation work of Foothills Conservancy. Mountain Xpress reports that Bryan Spach, area sales manager for Vulcan’s Mideast Division, presented a $2,500 award to Susie Hamrick Jones, executive director of the Foothills Conservancy, a regional land trust that preserves natural areas and open spaces of the Blue Ridge Foothills region including watersheds, significant wildlife habitats, forests, and farm lands. “Vulcan Materials has been one of our corporate partners for the last 10 years,” Jones told the newspaper. “We applaud their company-wide focus on environmental stewardship and education and appreciate their support of our land and water conservation programs.”
A hydrologist with the U.S. Geological Survey, Ralph Haefner, raised concerns that a limestone mine pumping 40 million gallons of water a day from one Columbus quarry to another (located in a city well field) could affect the city’s drinking water. According to The Columbus Dispatch, staff members of the Ohio Department of Natural Resources said the water quality will continue to meet state and federal standards and that “a great deal of careful planning and review has gone into evaluating and permitting this process.” Ken Holland, president of Olen Corp., told the newspaper that the quarry was expected to be dewatered by the end of October and that a greatly reduced pumping level would be used after that to keep it dry and allow further limestone mining.
The rest of the state could take a lesson in economic development from the city of Lebanon, state Sen. Frank Morse (R-Albany) told more than 80 people gathered at an October chamber of commerce meeting. The Democrat Herald reports that he said the city’s positive attitude toward industrial development and streamlined permitting process are non-existent in many communities. “Time to market is a key to economic prosperity,” said Morse, former president of Morse Bros. sand and gravel company. He said he supports Gov. Kitzhaber’s concept of developing “regional solution centers” that include representatives from the Department of Transportation, Department of Environmental Quality, and business development and housing and community services. He also stressed the state’s need for a rainy day fund and noted that the state’s Public Employees Retirement System will eventually make it difficult to keep state and school budgets on track.
Attorneys with Citizens for Pennsylvania’s Future (PennFuture) filed an appeal before the Environmental Hearing Board challenging the permit granted by the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) which allows New Hope Crushed Stone Quarry to expand. According to a press release from the organization, the appeal was filed on behalf of the Primrose Creek Watershed Association, as well as PennFuture. The chair of PennFuture’s legal staff said that the DEP had made a formal determination that Primrose Creek is impaired and that the quarry is the cause of the impairment. Therefore, he claimed the agency’s decision to allow quarry expansion is “arbitrary and capricious and contrary to the law.”
At Aggregates Manager’s press time, three Vulcan Materials operations — Lakeside Quarry, Anderson Quarry, and Liberty Quarry — were about to host “Rock On,” an event to benefit the Boys Home of the South. According to the Independent Mail, more than 40 vehicles participated in the event last year. All types of vehicles were to tour the three sites, with food, activities, and a car show at the Lakeside Quarry, where the tour was to end. Each vehicle registered in the ride provides a $25 WalMart gift card for one of the boys so he can purchase Christmas gifts.
Vandals did about $25,000 worth of damage to equipment at a quarry on Woodcliff Road in Putnam County. According to the Herald-Citizen, the perpetrators put sand and gravel into the engine oil and transmission of a track loader, causing the damage. The owners plan to install more gates to prevent further incidences.
Michels Materials’ Quarry Quest in Neenah drew what may be a record-breaking crowd of 15,000. Craig Uhlenbrauck, Quarry Quest co-chair, told the Post Crescent that he believed the event had raised more than $940,000 during its tenure and this year’s event looked to put it past the $1 million mark. Proceeds benefit local children’s charities, including the Quarry Quest Environmental Education Fund. Activities at the event included controlling a crane, creating gemstone jewelry, and riding a boom lift to get an aerial view of the site. One new activity, the “Wishful Diamond Dig,” allowed adults to fill sand buckets for one minute with the goal of finding prize tokens for a local jeweler. Proceeds from that event went to the Make-A-Wish Foundation of Wisconsin.
The City of University Place has proposed rezoning of a property to stop its owner from mining gravel on it. The News Tribune reports the owner had applied for a permit to mine a portion of his property and had previously won permitting battles against the city for such permission. The city’s attorney, Steve Victor, asked the owner’s attorney for an option other than mining near the city’s gateway. The response was to rezone the property as neighborhood commercial, which is a more valuable land use. In a twist, neighbors of the site are objecting to the rezoning because they believe it is likely to result in a gas station. Other neighborhood commercial options include banks, convenience stores, and offices. The neighbors have said they would prefer the short-term impacts of a mine over the permanent headaches of a commercial enterprise.
A recently released survey shows that Ontarians are in favor of a certification system for responsibly sourced aggregate materials. The Ipsos Reid survey (available online at www.ipsos-na.com/news-polls/) found that 85 percent of respondents believe that a voluntary certification system that recognizes environmentally and socially responsible aggregate operations is a good idea. “As a leading supplier of aggregate in the GTA (greater Toronto area) and adjacent municipalities, we find these results affirm that a certification program like SERA would be supported,” said Andrea Bourrie, director, planning and regulatory affairs, Holcim Canada Inc. “These results clearly indicate that, by and large, communities recognize that aggregate operations are important for the economy and for building strong, livable communities. The results also imply that the aggregate planning and approval process would be less confrontational if a certification system was being adhered to.” In June, Socially and Environmentally Responsible Aggregates (SERA) released a set of draft standards that propose voluntary operating procedures that would allow operators a third-party assessment of their social and environmental practices. Those standards are currently under review and revision by a stakeholder group that includes municipalities, environmental and community groups, and the aggregate industry.