…the quarry is a holdover from a bygone era”..
(New Hope, Pennsylvania) — Fed up with loud, heavy trucks and worried about their water supply, some New Hope and Solebury residents are calling for an end to quarry operations.
Jim and Kathy Lyons have organized the New Hope Residents Association, a group of residents and small business owners in New Hope and Solebury, which is asking the state to deny a permit for the New Hope Crushed Stone and Lime quarry.
A denial could be the death warrant for the quarry; forcing it to end operations after it eventually runs out of stone.
Though the industrial business might be unpopular in a community better known for its antique shops, bed and breakfast inns and scenic, riverfront views, the quarry provides local jobs and raw materials for building. It does business in an area that treasures its past and respects the hardworking industries that helped lay the foundation for Bucks communities.
Like the barges that once moved goods up and down the canal, the quarry is a holdover from a bygone era.
“They’ve been there for 80 years. They’ve kind of dug themselves into a corner,” said Jim Lyons, of the quarry, which is located on Phillips Mill Road in Solebury Township. “They can’t go north or south. They can’t go east or west. The only way they can go is down.”
The quarry is 120 feet deep, and is seeking to dig down to 170 feet, said Kevin Morrissey, president of the Primrose Creek Watershed Association.
Overall, the quarry is allowed to go as far as 200 feet into the earth.
At each increment, the quarry has to ask DEP permission to go to the next level, said Morrissey.
Pennsylvania’s Department of Environmental Protection is reviewing the quarry’s request to excavate to a depth of 50 feet. DEP officials would not comment about the permit application, but noted they were taking public concerns regarding environmental impacts of additional mining into consideration.
A decision is expected in four to six weeks, said DEP spokeswoman Deborah Fries.
Quarry managers declined to comment.
Too many trucks
In the meantime, the Lyons and their neighbors continue to fume over noxious trucks.
“Everybody, obviously, hates the (quarry) trucks. This has been going on for years and years, and it has progressively gotten worse,” said Lyons, a New Hope resident, who once owned a local antique shop. “For years, we’ve had 40 to 50 trucks an hour coming down Main Street, which is unbelievable.”
The heavy, dirty trucks spew pollution and noise as they wind down the narrow, downtown streets of the riverfront community, he said.
They also pose a danger to other motorists, because the wide trucks often have to cross the double-yellow lines in order to stay on the roadway, said Lyons.
“They’re ruining property values,” said Lyons, a resident of North Main Street. “The businesses here – they are in bad shape as it is.”
The trucks aren’t only coming from New Hope Crushed Stone and Lime quarry, said New Hope council President Sharyn Keiser.
Stone trucks from New Jersey quarries have been rumbling down River Road and through the borough because they are avoiding tolls and more stringent rules in that state, which restrict quarry truck travel on certain roads.
“I think there is a concern as far as quality of life for residents on Main Street regarding these trucks,” she said. “It’s a real issue.”
Though police monitor the trucks’ speed, the trucks can’t be restricted because they are driving on state-owned roads.
Council might consider sending a letter in support of the New Hope Residents Association’s opposition to the quarry permit, but as far as the truck traffic “it’s really out of our jurisdiction,” said Keiser.
When PennDOT reopens Rabbit Run Bridge in October, truck traffic is expected to escalate even more.
The bridge, along River Road, which spans the Delaware Canal in Solebury has been closed since March.
The 79-year-old bridge was deemed structurally deficient and had weight restrictions, which had forced quarry trucks to avoid the bridge.
When Rabbit Run Bridge opens in the fall, there will no longer be any weight restrictions, allowing heavy trucks, said PennDOT spokesman Charles Metzger.
The quarry is also sapping 2.5 million gallons of water a day from the local aquifer, which provides drinking water to hundreds of surrounding homes, said Morrissey, president of the Primrose Creek Watershed Association.
The quarry pumps the excess water, which results from mining, into Primrose Creek, he said. The creek was once a rare, state classified cold, trout stream. In the ’90s, the DEP authorized the quarry to cut the creek in half, he said.
Water, cloudy from stone sediment, is now piped from the upper end to the lower end of Primrose Creek. Much of that sediment-filled creek, which can no longer support fish and wildlife, ends up in the Delaware River, said Morrissey.
Keiser, of New Hope council, wants more water studies to be completed before the quarry would get the OK to dig deeper.
She’s concerned about the impact on the borough’s water supply.
“There are limited natural resources. (In New Hope) public water comes from wells, not reservoirs,” she said.
Solebury officials have a long, difficult history with New Hope Crushed Stone and Lime, which includes litigation.
The township has conducted numerous studies that look into the quarry’s impact on water wells, said Township Manager Dennis Carney.
Nearby property owners have also been dealing with sink holes, he said.
That data have been handed over to the DEP.
“We’re not in favor of the quarry going deeper,” said Solebury Supervisor Chairman Peter Augenblick, noting that many residents rely on private wells. “Water resources are probably our number one priority here in Solebury, like other places.”
“We think there is a big risk to township residents with the quarry going deeper,” said Augenblick.
The New Hope Residents Association has also asked state lawmakers for help.
Rep. Bernie O’Neill shares residents and local officials’ concerns regarding the environmental impact of the quarry, said a spokeswoman.
O’Neill will meet with DEP Secretary Michael Krancer, Solebury officials and Primrose Watershed Association leaders in Harrisburg later this month.
Sen. Chuck McIlhinney met with Krancer a few weeks ago to voice his opposition to the quarry deepening.
He called the water concerns and sinkholes a matter of “public safety.”
“I am requesting the DEP not to grant (the permit) until a full impact on the water table and the sinkholes can be assessed,” said McIlhinney.
What was once a tiny, stone quarry for locals in the 1930s has changed into a booming operation that no longer fits with the community, some said.
“We believe the quarry is long past its usefulness,” said Morrissey, of the Primrose Creek Watershed Association.
He is hoping that the quarry could eventually be turned into a lake and Primrose Creek would be restored.
“It’s expanded to the point where it looks like the surface of the moon. It resembles nothing of what it started out to be.”