Quarry proposal draws criticism at hearing

May. 02, 2014 @ 05:01 AM

O.F. “Russ” Patterson III sat in the back of the Historic Chatham County Courthouse on Wednesday night while, for more than an hour, concerned citizens expressed fears that a quarry he has applied to mine in Goldston will harm their health and way of life.

“We have a park and a licensed day care less than half a mile from the proposed site. We have a school (J.S. Walters Elementary School} a mile away,” Goldston resident Beth Barber said, asking the state officials leading Wednesday’s meeting to deny permits for “a noisy, disruptive business for the personal gains of a few but to the detriment of many.”

Barber was one of the approximately 50 people at the meeting and one of 16 who gave public comments about the proposed rock quarry, which would be nearly as big as Goldston itself and whose borders would brush up against the town’s southern limits.

When given a chance by the Department of Energy and Natural Resources (DENR) employees in charge of the meeting to give a presentation or respond to any criticism, Patterson gave a thumbs-down. He did stay afterward and spoke with some people privately, but when asked if he’d like to say anything for the record, the Sanford man declined to comment.

Patterson and his family have at least two companies involved in the potential quarry, Patterson Exploration Services and Little Texas Farms.

Goldston officials have no authority over the site since it’s just outside city limits, but the Town Board of Commissioners did pass a resolution opposing the quarry. They formally asked the state to reject it, citing environmental concerns and its potential to stunt future growth.

Mayor Tim Cunnup read the resolution at the meeting. He also spoke about the town’s decades-long struggle with sanitation, saying that only recently has a new sewer system eliminated problems that included standing pools of sewage in some places.

“I would ask the mining board to please consider this and not put another environmental issue into the town,” he said.

The 220.77 acre Daurity Springs Quarry would stretch from Roberts Chapel Church Road in the west to South Main Street. It’s a few thousand feet south-southeast of downtown Goldston.

An estimated 350 people live within a mile of the quarry site, and several homes lay barely beyond the proposed buffers of vegetation between the quarry and the outside world.

“The citizens are well within their rights to be concerned about blasting,” said Norman Clark, a Pittsboro resident and former Chapel Hill fire marshal. “... Particularly in older buildings, it can be a problem with foundations cracking.”

Of the 16 who gave public comments Wednesday night, one was not entirely opposed to the quarry. Walter Petty, chairman of the Chatham County Commissioners, said the county has lost businesses recently and could use the economic boost, but that environmental concerns must be thoroughly addressed.

That is roughly the same as the state’s official stance. The Mining Act of 1971 says mining should be allowed since it is a vital part of the economy — but only if it is regulated and the site can later be reclaimed. The popular Eno Quarry park and swimming area in Durham is one such example.

There is one other mine with current state permits and a Goldston address, the Glendon Pyrophyllite mine. It’s located in Moore County near where Moore, Lee and Chatham counties converge.

According to the DENR officials at Wednesday’s meeting, Patterson’s application for the Daurity Springs Quarry already has been reviewed by several state and federal agencies. It reportedly was found to likely not have “an unduly adverse affect on groundwater” if developed, an official said, although its identification of nearby streams and wetlands reportedly was lacking.

Maps of the area show at least one stream flowing through the proposed quarry site and eventually connecting with the Deep River near Camelback Bridge.

A Chapel Hill lawyer representing some of the neighbors, John Runkle, said the quarry will be bad for humans as well as an endangered species of fish, the Cape Fear Shiner, which only lives in Chatham, Lee, Moore, Harnett and Randolph counties.

“This quarry’s not going to be a good neighbor, as it’s going to be noisy, dusty and potentially dangerous,” Runkle said.

Neighbor Judy Barber said she’s worried.

“My health and the health of my neighbors is at risk directly, now and years down the road,” she said.

Former Sanford Mayor Cornelia Olive, whose mother lives across from the proposed quarry, also spoke Wednesday. Olive said her grandfather used to find Native American artifacts in his fields there, and she intends to ask the state to investigate the site’s potential historic or cultural value.

People who missed the hearing but want to communicate with the DENR officials — whether in opposition to the quarry or in favor of it — should mail three written copies addressed to Dr. Kenneth Taylor, Section Chief of the N.C. Geological Survey, Division of Land Resources, 1612 Mail Service Center, Raleigh N.C. 27699.

Correspondence will be accepted from now until May 12. A decision likely will be made within several months.