DORRANCE TWP. – A dispute over a controversial quarry expansion project that raged for five years ended in less than five minutes Thursday evening, as Dorrance Township supervisors gave conditional approval to the project.
At a special meeting addressing only the project, supervisors Gary Zane and Royce Engler voted to approve Pennsy Supply's application to expand its quarry south of Small Mountain Road.
Supervisor William Wengrzynek, who was appointed Monday to fill the seat vacated by Supervisor Benjamin Ostrowski's resignation, abstained from voting.
The quarry expansion was opposed by certain township residents who worry it could contaminate groundwater in a residential area reliant on wells for drinking water.
The supervisors' approval is contingent on a list of 22 conditions, which include:
• Restrictions on days and times when blasting and heavy-equipment use may take place.
• A requirement that Pennsy Supply, on request, test private water wells within 1,000 feet of the quarry border.
• Requirements for maintaining eight monitoring wells and monitoring surface water.
• A maximum quarry depth of 1,230 feet above sea level.
Pennsy Supply previously submitted a list of conditions with which it would be willing to comply, but supervisors said they added conditions based on resident concerns and expert testimony.
I'm satisfied that the water wells will not be affected, Zane said.
The township meeting room was packed by a subdued crowd of residents opposed to the expansion and quarry workers supporting it. Pennsy Supply said at earlier hearings the livelihoods of 150 workers at the plant would be in jeopardy if the expansion was not approved because the company had nearly exhausted its resources at the site.
We're glad that they submitted a plan that protects the resident concerns, the company's concerns and the 150 jobs, Patrick Bartorillo, president of Pennsy Supply's North Region, said after the meeting. He added that the quarry supports additional jobs at a concrete plant across the street and at the equipment shop where the company's trucks and heavy equipment are serviced.
Resident and project opponent Joe Chalawick said he was disappointed but not surprised by the decision, and felt the supervisors turned their backs on resident concerns.
These guys are supposed to represent this township, not these companies or anyone else, Chalawick said. These people (Pennsy Supply) don't live here. They take our stuff and they leave.
Township resident Dan McDonough said Pennsy Supply's expert witness at a previous hearing could not answer questions about annual rainfall at the quarry and the number of water tanks and trucks at the site daily, and that information the company provided about the quarry's impact on the water table was therefore flawed severely.
If he doesn't know this, how could he make an accurate model of how my water is affected, McDonough said.
Residents who testified at hearings on the matter have 30 days to appeal the board's decision to the courts.
Attorney William Higgs, who was hired to represent resident Kevin Casey, said he couldn't determine whether an appeal would be feasible until he thoroughly reviewed the conditions put forth by the supervisors.
The project also will need several additional approvals before it can go forward, including a land development permit from the township planning and zoning department, a stormwater permit from Luzerne County and a building permit from the township for an office building and crusher plant planned as part of the expansion.
It already has received a mining permit from the state Department of Environmental Protection.
Bartorillo said the company would submit its land development permit application soon, likely by spring.