State wants more analysis

Published 9:22 pm Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Martin Marietta asked for “expanded” review of discharge options

State environmental officials have asked Martin Marietta Materials to give more thought to its plans to discharge groundwater into two tributaries of Blount’s Creek before it drafts a permit for the operation of a quarry in southern Beaufort County.

The state Division of Water Quality has asked the company for an “expanded” analysis of alternatives to its plan to discharge some 9 million gallons of water a day into the tributaries of the creek.

As part of that analysis, the company has been asked to re-evaluate the feasibility of injecting water drained from the mine back into the aquifer and treating and reusing that water to supply drinking-water systems or some other use.

The division has also asked Martin Marietta Materials to define a “zone of impact” of its proposed discharge on the creek, including the point downstream where its effects on the hydrology, marine life and the salinity of the creek would be “considered insignificant.”

These are two of four issues the division asked the company to address in a letter dated Feb. 13 to Steve Whitt, director of environmental services, with Martin Marietta Materials, from Gil Vinzani, the division’s Complex National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System Permits Unit.

The letter also asks Martin Marietta Materials to provide information about the settling pond that would be located next to the mining pit, a flow diagram for the mine dewatering and stormwater discharge and information about the closed-loop settling system.

It asks Martin Marietta Materials to respond to the questions within 30 days of receipt of the letter.

Martin Marietta Materials has sought permission from various state and federal regulators to mine marine limestone on land that would be leased from Weyerhaeuser Co. on the border of Beaufort and Craven counties.

The head of one local environmental group told the Washington Daily News the questions posed in the letter target many of the concerns the organization has about the project.

“This letter addresses many of our concerns, especially the requirement to fully evaluate all of the alternatives that are reasonable,” said Heather Jacobs Deck, riverkeeper with the Pamlico-Tar River Foundation. “Alternatives do exist that will greatly reduce the impact to Blount’s Creek. I am glad to see (the Division of Water Quality) asking for this information.”

The quarry, if the permits for its operation are approved, would be in operation for about 50 years and be similar to the Clarks Quarry operated by Martin Marietta Materials near New Bern and four other mining operations owned by the company in eastern North Carolina.

As part of its operations, the limestone taken from the quarry would then be crushed into rocks of various sizes to be used by the N.C. Department of Transportation in road construction and by others in residential and commercial building projects.

The operation would add about $25 million to the county’s tax base from equipment used to mine, crush and transport the stone and about 20 local jobs with a payroll of about $1 million to $1.5 million, company officials have said.

After it is satisfied with the information presented by Martin Marietta Materials, the division could develop a draft permit for the project. The public would then have the chance to comment on the proposed permit in writing and at a public hearing later this year.