PCS permit depends on state certification

Published 5:05 am Saturday, October 18, 2008

By Staff
Water-quality officials want to tweak boundary
Staff Writer
More than a thousand local jobs and many acres of wetlands mean that a federal permit for PCS Phosphate’s proposed expansion near Aurora has taken eight years of wrangling so far. Now, with the end almost in sight, a minor state certification has become perhaps the last hurdle the company must face.
The phosphate mine and processing complex has run out of permitted land to mine, and the contractors PCS Phosphate employs to clear land before mining are idle. A new permit would allow it to expand in several directions, including east, where wetlands along tributaries of the Pamlico River create a number of environmental concerns.
But officials at the Division of Water Quality, a part of the N.C. Division of Environment and Natural Resources, have some questions they need answered, and want to look at tweaking the boundaries of the proposed expansion before they issue a needed state certification, called a 401 Certification.
The other questions — about water quality monitoring and mitigation of the expansion’s impact on the environment — should be easily resolved, both officials said.
The DWQ is looking at changes that are insignificant compared with the scope of the project as a whole, said John Dorney, a DWQ supervisor.
The changes — which might move lines up to a thousand feet in some places — would still be less than 5 percent of the wetlands PCS Phosphate intends to mine, Dorney said.
Smith, the PCS Phosphate official, said it was too soon to evaluate the proposed boundary tweaks.
The Army Corps of Engineers evaluated 12 proposed boundaries for the expansion in a series of reports it released as it considered PCS Phosphate’s permit decision.
Officials from DWQ are expected to be in the field at the mine on Friday, Dorney said.
One of the company’s biggest concerns at this point is getting its permits in time to avoid layoffs, Smith said.
Dorney said PCS Phosphate likely will have its state certification by the end of November and any changes in the proposed boundary shouldn’t require any new evaluations by the Corps of Engineers.