DEP Holds Informal Conference for Richland Township Land and Property Owners
Caption: Melanie Williams, DEP Community Relations Coordinator moderates landowner conference.
KNOX: The PA DEP Knox District Office on Best Avenue in Knox held an informal conference for land and property owners in Clarion County Richland Township and Chestnut Ridge area. The conference is part of the approval process and this gave landowners the opportunity to ask questions and present their concerns to DEP and Amerikohl Aggregates, Inc. of Butler about the land affected by permit application no. 16150302 if approved.
The permit is for a non-coal mine and is for the removal of limestone on 232.5 acre tract along the top of Chestnut Ridge in Richland Twp. in Clarion County, PA.
With nearly 40 landowners present the general consensus was that they did not want the permit to be approved.
After a summary statement of the project by Joe Ferrara, District Mining Manager with the Knox DEP the meeting/conference was conducted by Melanie Williams, DEP Community Relations Coordinator who allowed each person present, no more than 10 minutes, to speak their minds and ask their questions. If a question could not be answered, written answers would be provided after the Feb. 10th deadline for written questions by landowners to the DEP.
The first to speak was president and CEO of Amerikohl, John Stilley, who pleaded the case for AmeriKohl’s permit acceptance. Some of his comments included that his company would be a good neighbor to the landowners. He cited their 85 reclamation awards over the past 50 to 60 mines that they were responsible for. He also expressed their desire to keep their employees working with good jobs, and welcomed a review of their mining records. If approved, he said that the mining would not begin for another 3 to 4 years.
John Saugrich of Amerikohl spoke about the mining operations that would need to take place. The depth of the mine could go as deep as 95 feet in at least 59 acres. Homes within 1000 feet of the blasting areas would receive blast testing prior to any blasting, and that if approved, mining would begin near Jones Road and the land would be restored to forest land as it is now.
Despite Amerikohl’s best efforts to alleviate doubts, landowners had serious questions and concerns about the mining operation. On the top of the list were their water wells, dust pollution, run-off into nearby streams and road conditions. Some homes, with children, are within 3 feet of the road where these dump trucks will be passing in and out. How well would the roads be maintained for easy access for emergency vehicles. Amerikohl’s responses to these questions were that they would maintain the road or reconfigure the road to maintain safety, and dampen roads and areas when dust became a problem. However, at the moment DEP did not offer any way in which the dust levels would be monitored to warn Amerikohl that the dust needed to be minimized or reduced. This was a question that DEP received in writing and it is hoped that the landowners would receive written answers.
A couple of unanswered questions that come up were presented by LeRoy Best and Marty Sanders. Best pointed out that the Richland Township area was a “Key Conservation Area” in Clarion County and how a mining operation could even be considered on Chestnut Ridge. He also asked if this was approved, could Amerikohl shift their hours of operation from starting at 6:00 AM to 8:00 AM.
One of the more eye opening statements during the conference was the accusation by a landowner Sanders who had first-hand knowledge of a wet-land area being disturbed on his property. He said an employee of Amerikohl contacted him so he could bring in an excavator to drain a pond and remove the wetland. He said that the employee did not want to have any problems with DEP over the wetland being there.
There wasn’t any response from the DEP or Amerikohl over this allegation. The land owner is hoping for a response from the DEP after the February 10th deadline since he also gave the question to them in writing earlier.
Another distraught landowner, Mike MacDonald, was upset at the prospect of losing or damages to his spring water. He was also upset that the landowners were not properly notified of the request for the mining permit in the first place and that he only learned about it through an article in The Progress News. DEPs Williams responded saying that a legal notice was published in The Clarion News. McDonald was still upset because 90% of the landowners in area, if any, get The Clarion News and that their effort to notify land and property owners was inadequate.