Chester Township residents met for almost two hours with Morrow County Prosecutor, Charles Howland and Morrow County Environmental Health Director, Brian Benick last Wednesday at the Zolman Memorial Building in Chesterville.
The purpose of the meeting was to outline the next steps in regards to the permit requests for dewatering by the National Lime and Stone Company at the Chesterville quarry.
Twenty township residents were in attendance along with several county officials and interested citizens.
The requested permits from the Ohio EPA and the Ohio Department of Natural Resources (ODNR), if both are approved, would allow ‘dewatering’ or removal of deeply buried ground water in order to extract more gravel from the Chesterville quarry.
Chester Township residents, Susan Grundy and Tyler Shinaberry led the meeting.
Grundy noted that only the Ohio EPA permit has been granted at this time. The permit request for the ODNR is still pending.
She read the letter from the Ohio EPA stating that they issued the permit since all qualifications for the permit were met. It will be in effect for 40 years.
Shinaberry said that Chester residents still have time to look at alternatives and do research for appeals since the ODNR permit has not been approved.
He said the citizens group contacted an attorney through the Sierra Club who is familiar with this kind of environmental concern.
Through their research the citizens’ group came up with an alternative to the dewatering process proposed by National Lime and Stone.
Shinaberry said they found there is another possible method of digging to greater depths in the quarry called “clam shell dredging.”
In clam shell excavation there is a floating, modular dredge on the lake.
The dredge drops the clam shell bucket that can go to a depth of 200 feet down to obtain gravel and sand without the need for dewatering.
The clam shell method would be an advantage to both National Lime and Stone and the Chester community the citizen’s group believes.
The method would eliminate much of the noise and dust caused with conventional dewatering. It will also mean there would not be millions of gallons of polluted water going into the Kokosing and less draw down of wells for the surrounding community.
It would be a more cost effective process of digging out the gravel for the National Stone and Lime Company. The bucket would bring out sand with the gravel more efficiently as well. Shinaberry said several companies in Pennsylvania and Ohio that are using the clamshell method.
Shinaberry said that they have written the National Lime and Stone Company explaining the clam shell process’ advantages.
National Lime and Stone answered with a letter that they will consider the clam shell idea Chester Township proposed.
The Chester citizens discussed following up the letter with a visit to the company and including experts who understand the technology of the clam shell digging.
Township preparations for appeal
At the same time they are researching the clam shell dredging process, Shinaberry and Chester residents are also focusing on the possibility that they may need to take an appeal to the Coal Mining Reclamation (CMR) Board.
If the ODNR Board were to approve the dewatering permit, the Reclamation Commission is the township’s avenue of appeal.
In the case that the ODNR were to approve the pending permit, the Chester citizens would have only 30 days to respond with an appeal to the CMR Board.
It is required by the board that they have expert witnesses.
The group would need to consult hydrologist, a geologist and an expert witness who can explain the clamshell dredging process.
Howland urged the citizens group to work on getting their experts lined up for the appeal if it is necessary.
Shinaberry said they are checking with Delco Water for a hydrologist. They are hoping they can get a geologist to check the soil wetlands from the USDA. They also need citizen witnesses from the affected area.
Howland said “in order to qualify for an appeal, the decision to approve the permit must be proven to be an action that is arbitrary and capricious.” Howland added that it is a tough standard to meet for an appeal.
At one point Howland considered filing an injunction to stop or slow down the permit process.
However, Howland said that if the injunction were to fail, the township would be responsible for the company’s legal fees, which could exceed $100,000.
Shinaberry made a plea to township residents and interested county citizens to work with him and other township residents on helping with research in the case an appeal would need to be made.
The citizens group plans to work on obtaining expert witnesses for an appeal if the ODNR would approve the grant.
From the Health Department’s view, Benick encouraged residents in Chester Township to have their wells tested in case the dewatering is approved.
He has the past record of every well drilled in the township.
“Know the status of your well,” he urged. “Know the depth, the draw down, the static and other data from both the past and present.”
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