Holbert Quarry dispute resolved; mining operations limited to four acres at a time
The issue of the proposed expansion of the Holbert Quarry in Lackawaxen has been resolved by the limitation of the amount of land that can be worked at any given time. According to a press release from the Upper Delaware Council (UDC), one of the organizations that had opposed the expansion, the permit from the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) will specify that only two acres of the 40 acres in question may be mined at one time, and another two-acre area may be used for supporting operations. Further, a mined parcel will be reclaimed and reseeded before operations may begin on a new parcel.
There are two existing permits for two separate five-acre parcels. The permit sought by the Holbert brothers, who mine bluestone at the quarry, was to expand to a single 40-acre parcel. But according to Laurie Ramie, executive director of the UDC, that would have run afoul of the River Management Plan. The press release said, “The Land and Water Use Guidelines prohibit major surface mining operations in the river corridor, as defined by ‘any new land use operation which extracts minerals from the earth from active operations exceeding two acres in size…’ and defines minor surface mining operations as ‘not exceeding two acres of active face at one time, plus an area equal in size to the active face necessary for accessory use.’”
The Lackawaxen Township Supervisors granted a permit for the expansion in July 2011, and in October 2011, Wayne Holbert, one of the quarry owners, applied for a National Pollution Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) Industrial Mineral Mine permit from the DEP.
The UDC, along with Sean McGuinness, superintendent of the National Park Service (NPS) Upper Delaware Scenic and Recreational River, and Delaware Riverkeeper Maya K. van Rossum, had asked DEP for a public hearing on the proposed expansion back in January.
On November 20, however, representatives from the DEP’s Pottsville Mining Office met with staff from UDC and NPS and explained the conditions that would be attached to the permit, which prompted all three organizations to withdraw the requests for a hearing.
UDC chairperson Nadia Rajsz wrote in a letter to DEP on December 6, “We feel that the NPDES permit does protect the outstandingly remarkable values of the Upper Delaware Scenic and Recreational River through regulation of surface discharge and appropriate erosion and sediment controls… The NPDES permit is viewed as an adequate compromise to accommodate the interests and goals of all parties. We will rely on the DEP to uphold its regulations throughout the duration of this mining operation and are gratified to learn that there is a more rigorous, quarterly inspection schedule associated with this permit.”
The expansion had also been opposed by neighbors in the area who were concerned, among other things, about the amount of truck traffic the expanded quarry would produce.
The Holbert brothers did not immediately respond to a request for comment.