Con­cerns re­gard­ing DEP per­mit­ting process for ex­pan­sion at Kutz­town Quarry

Northern Berks Patriot Item - - LOCAL NEWS -

I am once again writ­ing to you with in­for­ma­tion and con­cerns re­gard­ing the De­part­ment of En­vi­ron­men­tal Pro­tec­tion (DEP) per­mit­ting process for the ex­pan­sion at the Kutz­town Quarry.

On June 8, 2017, I at­tended a pri­vate meet­ing with Michael Mengh­ini, DEP Man­ager District Min­ing Of­fice, Pottsville, and mem­bers of his staff, rep­re­sen­ta­tives of the Kutz­town Bor­ough, rep­re­sen­ta­tives of Max­atawny Town­ship, and Sen­a­tor Ju­dith Sch­wank with her District Di­rec­tor, in or­der to re­view the DEP’s de­ci­sion re­gard­ing a re­vised per­mit for the Kutz­town Quarry. To re­mind the reader, the big­gest con­cerns for area res­i­dents were (and still are) the DEP’s de­ci­sion to al­low the min­ing com­pany to in­crease the Quarry’s pump­ing dis­charge of wa­ter from 5,000 gal­lons per minute to 8,000 gal­lons per minute AND to deepen the Quarry’s min­ing pit by an­other 50 feet.

On Aug. 30, 2017, I re­ceived a copy of a DEP let­ter dated Aug. 9, 2017, for­warded to me by Kutz­town Bor­ough. This Aug. 9 DEP let­ter stated that ad­di­tional “cor­rec­tions” to the Kutz­town Quarry per­mit were be­ing ap­proved and that any ap­peal of th­ese “cor­rec­tions” had to be made “within 30 days of receipt of writ­ten no­tice of this ac­tion.”

This “new” Aug. 9, 2017 per­mit grants per­mis­sion for the min­ing com­pany, New En­ter­prise Stone & Lime (NESL), to dig out the min­ing pit an ad­di­tional 25 feet.

This added depth of 25 feet, be­yond the re­cently per­mit­ted ad­di­tional 50 feet in depth, is ab­so­lutely counter to what the Bor­ough and the Town­ship were told by the DEP staff eight weeks ear­lier in the pri­vate June meet­ing. And, the DEP staff had said that pub­lic no­tices would be re­quired be­fore the min­ing com­pany would be given per­mis­sion to dig down an­other depth seg­ment. To date, no pub­lic no­tices have ap­peared in the Read­ing Ea­gle.

Fi­nally, the DEP staff had said that in the very near fu­ture, all fur­ther depth re­quests would be con­sid­ered a “ma­jor” per­mit re­vi­sion with all the ge­o­log­i­cal and hy­dro­ge­o­log­i­cal in­for­ma­tion reeval­u­ated and a re­quire­ment that pub­lic no­tices be placed in the lo­cal news­pa­per. It seems that this Au­gust “cor­rec­tion” al­lows the min­ing com­pany to make an end run around this up­com­ing new reg­u­la­tion.

Also for me, there are se­ri­ous due process is­sues with re­gard to keep­ing the area res­i­dents in­formed. In­for­ma­tion pro­vided to the pub­lic by DEP is of­ten un­clear, in­com­plete, and cum­ber­some. Per­mit doc­u­ments are supplied when re­quested. How­ever, for the non-pro­fes­sional, th­ese doc­u­ments are very dif­fi­cult to un­der­stand with­out an ex­pert avail­able for dis­cus­sion and clar­i­fi­ca­tion. To just pro­vide copies of all the dif­fer­ent per­mit forms is not the same as in­form­ing the pub­lic. And, when in­for­ma­tion is pro­vided there is very lit­tle time (if any) to re­view, dis­cuss, and un­der­stand what ac­tions are be­ing con­sid­ered.

There should be a much greater will­ing­ness and avail­abil­ity of the DEP staff to meet and dis­cuss in­for­ma­tion with the pub­lic re­gard­ing any per­mit re­vi­sion. The DEP’s of­fer to “any per­son ag­grieved by this ac­tion” is to ap­peal its de­ci­sion. This is an­other de­ter­rent to pub­lic par­tic­i­pa­tion. Fil­ing an ap­peal means ini­ti­at­ing a cost-pro­hib­i­tive le­gal pro­ceed­ing, In other words, the Ap­peal Process is, in re­al­ity, con­trolled by whomever has more money.

The dif­fi­culty for our res­i­dents to un­der­stand what is be­ing done in this DEP per­mit re­vi­sion process is a re­flec­tion of the lack of in­for­ma­tion, the in­com­plete­ness of the in­for­ma­tion, and/ or the avoid­ance of pro­ce­dures/events de­signed to include the area res­i­dents. Our tax dol­lars sup­port the De­part­ment of En­vi­ron­men­tal Pro­tec­tion for the pur­pose of pro­tect­ing our nat­u­ral re­sources and to pro­vide for the health and safety of the Pub­lic.

Why is the Pub­lic not given more pro­tec­tion from cor­po­rate in­ter­ests? Why is the Pub­lic not given more clear and com­plete in­for­ma­tion? And, why are the con­cerns of the pub­lic about the risks to their wa­ter sup­ply not given more weight in the de­ci­sion mak­ing process? Cer­tainly pro­tect­ing the quan­tity and qual­ity of our wa­ter sup­ply is a very real health and safety is­sue for our area res­i­dents.

The Au­gust 2017 per­mit re­vi­sion should NOT be fi­nal­ized un­til the area res­i­dents are given a clear and ac­cu­rate ac­count of what depth of mine pit is ac­tu­ally be­ing ap­proved and what ev­i­dence sup­ports the DEP’s de­ci­sion to al­low fur­ther depth be­yond the pre­scribed in­cre­men­tal 50 foot, lift-by-lift ba­sis. The area res­i­dents ex­pect fair, bal­anced, and clear judg­ments on each re­vi­sion to the min­ing per­mits for the Kutz­town Quarry.

Please un­der­stand that the con­clu­sions and opin­ions stated here are based on the ma­te­ri­als I have avail­able to me. I be­lieve that our area res­i­dents have both a RIGHT and a NEED to be ac­tive par­tic­i­pants in all per­mit de­ci­sions im­pact­ing their wa­ter sup­ply. — Lisa Ladd-Kid­der Kutz­town

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