A road to a bluestone mine; without local zoning, what does compliance look like?
A bluestone mine being operated by Johnston and Rhodes is located in Manchester Township along a remote stretch of the Upper Delaware River.
According to Bob Neal, who owns property across River Road from the site, this summer workers began building a long road from the mine, which is located near the top of the mountain, down the side of the mountain to River Road.
Because of the thick forest in the area, the property owners nearby heard the big trucks moving around, but weren’t really aware of what was going on until the machines broke through to the road. Neal said at that point he went and asked what was going on, but, “By then it was too late; everybody was in shock.”
What they were in shock about was a new road wending its way down the mountain with three switchbacks and places to turn around, which, in Neal’s estimation, made the road at its widest spots some 80 feet across. What concerned him most was the erosion that could take place because of all the turned up earth and unplanted areas that could wash dirt and debris down the mountain onto his property.
He contacted the PA Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) and he was ultimately allowed to accompany a member of the DEP to the site for an inspection, though he was not allowed to speak or take pictures. He said that there were a couple of permits that should have been in place before the road could have legally moved forward. As a result, the DEP ordered the road temporarily closed, and has since been working with Johnston and Rhodes, a family-owned company dating back to 1909, to bring the road into compliance.
So, why were the permits missed?
According to the Wayne County Chamber of Commerce web, Manchester Township has 918 people, and has a zoning/permit officer named Steve Macy. Macy, his title notwithstanding, said the township has no zoning. He said Johnston and Rhodes informed him before construction of the road began about what they were going to do, and that no permits were required from the township. He said the DEP was responsible for any other permits.
This was not necessarily clear to the DEP. According to an email from Lisa Kasianowitz, a DEP information specialist in Harrisburg, initially the agency was not sure whether the DEP or Wayne County would have jurisdiction over the matter. She wrote, “Now, it looks like it is going to be more us than anyone else.”
But before the jurisdiction question was settled, a DEP inspector made suggestions about measures that could be taken regarding erosion and sedimentation controls, such as grading, planting and mulching.
According to Neal, the measures taken so far have had some effect: during the heavy rains earlier this fall the amount of sediment that was funneled into an existing 18-inch culvert and washed onto his acreage across the road was “only about four feet wide by four feet high.”
Kasianowitz wrote that the permit applications from the company are still being reviewed, and the DEP had not felt it necessary to issue any fines to this point, but that could change in the future.