South Carolina Environmental Law Project

Lawyers for the Wild Side of South Carolina

DHEC extends public comment period on rock quarry
August 20th, 2019

By The News & Reporter

The S.C. Department of Health and Environmental Control (DHEC) has agreed to extend the public comment period on the planned Chester rock quarry applied for by the Luck Stone division of the Luck Companies.

The planned quarry will be located off of S.C. Highway 9 near Boise-Cascade.

The original public comment period on the mine application by Virginia-based Luck Stone closed on Aug. 1 but due to DHEC requesting some additional information (in the form of the hydrogeological assessment to estimate the extent of groundwater drawdown from mine dewatering) from the applicant that could be important to the permitting process, they have extended the public comment period until Oct. 15 and will extend the date beyond that if needed, according to Laura Renwick, public information officer for DHEC. DHEC expects to be getting the additional information form Luck Stone by mid-September.

Renwick also stated DHEC received a request for a public hearing from the S.C. Environmental Law Project (SCELP), the same organization that advised the Friends and Farmers of Fishing Creek during their recent success in bringing about the withdrawal of the mining permit application for the Fishing Creek Quarry. The public hearing has not been scheduled at this time.

In his in email that also contained his comments to DHEC, SCELP Upstate Coordinator and Attorney Michael Corley pointed out, ‘We haven't asked that the mine permit be outright denied, as with the Fishing Creek Quarry. Rather, I've focused on additional needed information, some design modifications and considerations relevant to mitigation.’

Corley stated in his comments to DHEC that his objection to the permit is that ‘inadequate information has been provided to the public to allow full, meaningful comment.

‘I am commenting on the final day of the allowed notice period, yet as I write this, several of the most important aspects of this project remain unknown to the public. According to the application, the hydrologic assessment, the erosion and sediment control plan and the groundwater monitoring plan are all forthcoming,’ adding ‘most of this information is basically absent or left to speculation. Surrounding neighbors are obviously highly concerned with draw down of groundwater and the potential impact on wells. Neither the neighbors nor I have the information we need.

Corley also wrote ‘Let me be clear that I don't blame Luck for going ahead with incomplete submission of its application, given the lengthy, multi-phased permitting process. However, I do take issue with DHEC rolling out its public notice process and imposing a deadline for comment before all of this important information is known…even if the public is given subsequent opportunities to comment on later submissions, it won't be the same as an initial opportunity to consider and comment on the complete information,’ Corley wrote.

He said the later Phase 2 of the project stands to ‘essentially wipe a significant tributary from the map, which is unique, or at least highly unusual, in my history of reviewing this type of quarry. Yet, if a member of the public weren't looking very closely, he or she might miss that aspect altogether…I recognize that Phase 2 of the mining operation is many years in the future, but the application is seeking approval for that work now and neither I nor other members of the public have enough information to evaluate,’ Corley commented.

‘Obviously it is extremely difficult, if not impossible, to recreate a natural stream bed that likely formed over centuries. With no information about how that will be accomplished, my only choice is to register my objections of the highest degree. While the loss of these water resources is relevant to other permits that Luck may have to obtain, it is also highly relevant to the permit consideration here and to the public's opportunity to full and fair comment.’

He claims further that the proximity of the mining pit to the existing water resources will significantly degrade those resources, even when they aren’t technically eliminated by the operation (of the mine)

The 450 ft. deep pit will be within 100-200 feet of a tributary of Rocky Creek and the tributary and the surrounding wetlands ‘will be significantly impacted before they are eventually eliminated.

‘This mine completely eliminates some water resources…’ Corley stated.

In his comments, the SCELP coordinator also addressed air quality issues, stating ‘it is widely recognized that fugitive air emissions of particulate matter (PM) can be particularly problematic with rock quarries. Especially here, where the quarry is within reasonable proximity of public educational facilities, it is crucial that such air emissions be accounted for. Under the circumstances, it is reasonable and appropriate for the agency to require frequent air quality testing, comparing PM levels to pre-mining baseline levels and to require corrective action if a problem arises. Such steps should also go a long way to alleviate local concerns regarding silica dust exposure.’

Corley also criticized that fact that the various permits necessary for the project are being handled separately, stating that method ‘hampers public understanding and comment.’

‘Meaningful public participation would be fostered if, rather than being given one piece of the puzzle, we were allowed to evaluate this mining permit along with NPDES, air and other regulatory authorities.’

Corley concluded his comments by asking for a public hearing on the mining application.

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