Residents Express Concerns During Hearing On Luck Stone Quarry

Published 2:07 pm Tuesday, October 21, 2014

FARMVILLE — The fate of Luck Stone’s permit request to operate a granite quarry off US 460 will be decided before Christmas.

“I’ll make a written decision within 60 days,” said Allen Bishop as he closed Thursday night’s Virginia Department of Mines, Minerals and Energy informational hearing. Bishop, Special Projects Manager for the Virginia Division of Mineral Mining, promised to send a copy of his decision to everyone who gave him an address.

The hour-long hearing saw residents who live near the site express their concerns about the proposed quarry, which would be located on 330 acres approximately five miles west of Farmville.

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They spoke about their wells, about noise of the mining operation—trucks and the blasting—the impact on property values and their quality of life.

No adjacent or nearby property owner spoke in favor of the project.

Among those speaking was Thomas G. Rice, PG, an economic geologist hired by the Town of Farmville to evaluate whether or not the quarry would impact adjacent Mottley Lake.

The Town purchased the lake as an emergency water source in time of drastic drought and Rice believes the quarry inevitably, at some point in the future, will have a negative impact.

With that in mind, the Town is hoping the state requires improvements to Luck Stone’s proposed mitigation plan.

“I think the proposed mitigation plan was self-serving,” Rice said. “There’s only one hand on the faucet out there. And that’s the stuff of Western movies—who has control of the water. It was the easiest and the cheapest plan that could have been proposed.”

More mitigation needs to be in place, Rice emphasized, because “we’re dealing with drinking water for the town.”

In his career as a geologist and the projects of his experience, he said, “there are invariably surprises…I’ve never worked with one when there just weren’t surprises. You just don’t know what will happen in the future up there. And this concerns the town’s drinking water. It’s not just some stream. Any myriad of things could happen.”

So, Rice said, “the mitigation plan needs to be nailed down tight to make sure that there’s no problems in the future.”

The Town is requesting that Luck Stone install “a couple of high-yield wells near the water treatment plant. I don’t think that’s too much to ask for the Town,” he said.

The Town of Farmville, according to Rice, is even willing “to partner” with Luck Stone in drilling wells that would provide sufficient gallons-per-minute for the Town’s water system.

Other comments included Duane Benton’s concern about “environmental noise” and he noted his 22 years of experience with the Army in noise evaluation and mitigation and said he taught environmental law and regulations at Longwood University.

Benton addressed “impulsive” noise, which is different than continuous noise. “The mining industry sets off blasts and the US Army not only sets off blasts but they fire big guns,” he said, urging the state to add “a noise evaluation…to the final permit” that would “tell how Luck will respond to complaints, how they will put out microphones to evaluate the noise coming from the blasts and how they will mitigate any noise.”

William Amos said he lives directly behind the proposed site. “It would be right in my back yard, so I have a lot of issues: noise, blasting…wells, my basement cracking, my house, the plaster in my house…I’m concerned about all of that,” Amos said. “I’m retired. I’ve been there for 50 years and I’d like to be left alone…

“I’m not standing to gain anything from this and I stand,” he told state officials, “to lose everything: the value of my property, my wells go dry…”

A cattle farmer who lives right beside Mottley Lake was also concerned about water and asked that the same consideration be given to all affected property owners as may be given the town.

“I’d like a deep well that would guarantee I’m not going to lose water too,” she said.

James Smith, who lives across from the entrance to the quarry, criticized the Board of Supervisors for approving the project without doing a scientific study.

He said the quarry would “destroy” his family’s quality of life on their 50 acres that he described as “just as sweet as you could ask.”

Smith said nobody can tell him it won’t destroy their quality of life “because nobody has presented any type of test or study to show that we won’t be disturbed or how much we’ll be disturbed.”

The quarry, he said, would “affect me the rest of my life” and he asked the state to send the proposed quarry back to the County and the Board of Supervisors “for the study they should have (done), because it was not done.”

Another resident asked the state to alter the conditions as related to any impact on wells. Require mitigation for any impact to “nearby” wells, not just “adjacent” wells.

“There’s wells that are very close to the active mining area, just on the other side of Mottley Lake, which is a narrow lake, and they’re not adjacent lots and they’re not adjacent wells. They’re nearby for sure and they’ll probably be affected, just as the geologist we heard from (Rice) says the lake, itself, is going to be affected,” the man said.

And the condition requiring mitigation for any wells that go dry should be changed, he pointed out, to any well that has been changed, its output lowered.

Dryness is “an extreme condition. Dryness is as far as you can go. I would like to see that say if the well has been changed. Maybe it was good for 150 gallons per minute,” he said, “and now it’s only good for 20. Well, that’s a significant change but it’s not dry,” he said, “so I’d like to see that wording changed.”

Fillmer Hevener asked the state to require that Luck Stone be “responsible for damages should the current underground or surface water supply in our area be contaminated by the mining operation or should the underground or surface water volume be reduced because of the mining operation. Luck Stone should also be responsible for correcting any noise pollution, dust pollution and any other environmental damage caused by the mine and its operation. I also ask that you require Luck Stone to pay damages, court costs and attorneys fees if any type of harm should be caused to concerned property owners and/or their property.”

After Hevener’s comments concluded the remarks by property owners who signed up to speak, Luck Stone’s Land Use & Development Leader, Ben Thompson, thanked everyone for coming and asked other Luck Stone employees in attendance—approximately half a dozen—to raise their hands.

“We’re going to be here after the meeting for a little while,” he said, “and we’ll speak to anyone who would like.”

Thompson also encouraged residents to look at the conditions associated with the proposed quarry and “understand the language we put in there that provides both assurance and competence on our activity and how any impact, should they be deemed to occur, how those would be rectified. That also will be mirrored in a portion of the mitigation plan that was provided to (the state). Several of those conditions also speak to Mottley Lake…”

In response to The Herald’s request for specificity, Thompson emailed a list of conditions agreed to by Prince Edward County and Luck Stone, with the County’s approval contingent on Luck abiding to the full 27 conditions, as confirmed in a 2009 letter from then-County Planning Director Jonathan Pickett to Thompson.

The conditions related to water include:

Condition 11: “The Operator shall construct monitor well(s) at a location and number determined by an independent qualified professional (i.e., certified hydrologist or geologist) to monitor water levels and integrity.”

Condition 12: “If triggered by a formal complaint of an adjacent property owner and requested by the County, an independent qualified professional (i.e., certified hydrologist or geologist) shall be retained to determine if any activity associated with the stone quarry or crushing operation conducted by the Operator or anyone acting on behalf of the Operator has caused a well or wells on the property owner’s land to become dry. If determined, that the Operator’s activities have resulted in the drying of the property owner’s well, the Operator shall be responsible for providing an alternative water source (e.g., drill well deeper, new well, or connect to public water source at the discretion of the Operator) for the aggrieved party(ies) at the quarry Operator’s expense. The independent professional shall be agreed upon by both the Operator and the property owner and retained at the expense of the Operator.”

Condition 24: “At the discretion of the Town of Farmville, Virginia, the operator shall monitor and document seismograph readings in close proximity to the earthen dam located on Town of Farmville property.”

Condition 25: The operator, at its sole expense, shall conduct a pre-blast survey of the earthen dam (Mottley Lake) located on Town of Farmville property. If a claim is made by the Town of Farmville, that the above-referenced earthen dam has been damaged on account of the blasting by, or on behalf of the Operator, at the crushed stone operation, whether by ground vibration, air over-pressure, then upon determination by an independent qualified professional, with experience in the effects of blasting, that the damage claimed is proximately caused by said blasting, the Operator shall correct, or cause to be corrected, said damage to a level determined to be equal to the condition acknowledged during the pre-blast survey.”

Condition 28: “All water discharges from the Operator’s parcel to Mottley Lake or other state waters shall comply with monitoring requirements as specified in the General Permit for Nonmetallic Mineral Mining, which includes periodic sampling of collected stormwater and mining process water. Water quality leaving the site shall be in compliance with specified discharge limits, subject to penalties determined by the Department of Environmental Quality.”