One week after the state Department of Environmental Protection shut down operations at New Hope Crushed Stone and Lime in Solebury, Pennsylvania in July, the DEP said it complied with the agency’s order and the company was allowed to reopen about two weeks later.
The company was shut down when it missed a DEP deadline to fill a mining pit, the Intelligencer reports.
Since 2014, the DEP has given the company two deadlines to put varying amounts of fill in the pit at the quarry off Phillips Mill Road. The shutdown order came after the Pennsylvania Environmental Hearing Board ruled the quarry’s excavation was a “public nuisance” and linked it to nearby sinkholes, including some on the Solebury School grounds.
In January 2016, the department ordered the company to fill in 621,392 cubic yards of backfill, which is material simulating natural soil, by March 2019. When the company fell behind schedule, the DEP ordered it to fill in a separate 76,868 cubic yards of backfill between August 2016 and July 1.
When workers missed the second deadline by 12,835 cubic yards, the DEP shut down the mining operation July 10. On July 17, the DEP showed Solebury officials preliminary data from the company that showed the operation was back on track, said supervisor Helen Tai.
The DEP lifted the shutdown August 2, after quarry inspections confirmed the preliminary data. These inspections included a drone flyover, during which the DEP took photographs and turned them into a topographic map to estimate how much backfill the workers had placed, said department spokeswoman Virginia Cain.
Filling in the quarry will eventually turn it into a lake fed by Primrose Creek, which the company is working to restore, also by 2019.
Two weeks before missing the July 1 deadline, New Hope Crushed Stone and Lime cited quarry trespassers, rainy weather and a high employee turnover rate as reasons the DEP deadline was “impossible to meet.”
“It is our goal to fully reclaim this property and meet our responsibilities but also so we can achieve the greatest property use for the land as we look to our next phase,” company executives Christina Cursley and Greg Rodrigo wrote in a June letter to DEP officials. “We are doing our best and working hard.”
The pace at which New Hope Crushed Stone workers met the DEP order so the company could resume work is proof the 2019 deadline is “very, very attainable,” said Solebury supervisor Kevin Morrissey.
“We feel this has been a very generous project time that’s been provided (to the company),” he said. “On one hand, there certainly is the feeling that (the deadline) could be much sooner than that, but at this point, we’re working with the DEP and they’re targeting 2019, so that’s something we’re willing to work with.”
New Hope Crushed Stone might still pay for missing the July 1 deadline with a fine against the company is “under review,” said Cain, though she said the DEP does noty comment on “possible enforcement actions.”
The company paid $4,000 in 2015 for failing to provide the DEP with an adequate plan for filling the quarry and $14,845 in September for missing a fill goal by more than 85 percent.