MAD RIVER TOWNSHIP — Close to 300 Mad River Township residents filled the cafeteria at Greenon High School on Monday evening to voice their concerns to state officials about proposed mining modifications to 420.6 acres that are adjacent to more than 200 homes, Greenon High School and several businesses.
On Nov. 3, 2016, Enon Sand and Gravel LLC, a Jurgensen Company, applied to the Ohio Department of Natural Resources (ODNR) Division of Mineral Resources Management (DMRM) requesting the approval of a proposed amendment that would consolidate two existing mining permits. On Jan. 30, 2017, the company submitted an application request to ODNR –DMRM to modify the mining plan to increase the mining depth below the shale layer to extract limestone and permit the extraction of deeply buried ground water, known as dewatering. The extracted water would then be discharged into Mud Creek which is the nearest waterway.
The two existing permits that apply to a 21.8-acre parcel and 398.8-acre parcel were transferred from Demmy Construction Inc. to Enon Sand and Gravel LLC in December 2015. The property is bordered on the north by Rebert Pike, on the south by Garrison and Hustead Roads, on the east by South Tecumseh Road, and on the west by Hagen Road. According to ODNR-DMRM Field Supervisor Tyson Lamielle, the existing permits were issued in 1977. He also explained that the proposed amendment and modifications have not been approved by the Ohio Department of Natural Resources, the state permitting authority. The chief of the Division of Mineral Resources Management is accepting written comments and objections, which will be taken into consideration during the review process, up until April 21.
ODNR-DMRM Geologist Kelly Barrett and Hydrogeologist Wayne Jones explained the geological and hydrological makeup of the land and the dewatering process. Barrett stated that the pumping and discharging of groundwater makes an actual depression of the water levels. By mapping the cone of depression, the ODNR can determine where and how deep the water will drop, Barrett said.
ODNR-DMRM Blasting Specialist Steve Kullman told residents that mining companies use blasting during the mining operation because it is the cheapest and quickest way to break apart and excavate rock. However, a blaster must be state certified and have at least 40 hours of classroom training, on-the-job training with an experienced blaster, and two years of blasting experience.
Should the company’s mining permit be approved, Lamielle said the state would perform quarterly inspections of the site, which consist of three partial inspections and one thorough inspection. Residents can contact the inspectors if they feel their wells have been impacted by the dewatering process.
Dennis Garrison, president of the Jurgensen Company explained that the company is proposing to mine the property in three phases. Phase I would involve 120 acres off Garrison Road, south of Fairfield Pike, with a 40-year mining life. Garrison noted that the mining company would mine between three and four acres per year. Phases II and III would move from south to north near the Echo Hills Estates subdivision.
The company will provide pre-blast surveys by an outside party to all residents and will drill an existing well deeper or a new well if any resident experiences significant sinking water levels.
“There is transparency here. We are not trying to hide anything here,” said Garrison. “We will be setting up well monitoring networks. We have had only two well complaints among 15 to 16 operations in the state.”
However, county and local leaders echoed many concerns of township residents who expressed their fears about how the proposed mining operation could affect numerous wells residents rely on for their drinking water and the air quality, cause a blasting impact to structures and foundations, and threaten wildlife and property values, not to mention truck traffic eroding township roads.
“I am hoping that the ODNR denies it,” said Clark County Commissioner Richard Lohnes. “We are also reaching out to the Clark County Board of Zoning Appeals.”
“Digging through the shale layer could likely open up a route to contamination which could cause problems with deeper household wells, and dewatering could affect the volume of water in those wells. Given what we know, we cannot support it at this time,” said Larry Shaffer, director of Environmental Health at Clark County Combined Health District.
Allan Neimayer, senior planner at Clark County Community and Economic Development, pointed out that the land to be mined is zoned as A-1, which means the mineral extraction from that land is on a conditional use basis and is subject to the county zoning process.
“Even if the ODNR approves the permit, local zoning approval for mineral extraction operations in unincorporated areas of the county is a land use issue charged to the Clark County Board of Zoning Appeals,” said Neimayer.
Mad River Township Trustee President Kathy Estep said the trustees have also voiced their concerns to the ODNR. She noted that their letter had recently been sent to the state.
Enon Mayor Tim Howard expressed his concerns about truck traffic through the village and noted that he had asked Brent Huntsman, a local hydrogeologist, to study the ODNR model that determines the impact on wells within a five-mile radius. Huntsman determined that not enough pertinent information was included in the model.
Ned Clark, who lives in the Houck Meadows subdivision, pointed out that dumping more water into Mud Creek would only escalate an existing flooding problem for residents in the surrounding area. Tom Hale, director of the Clark County Department of Community Development and Flood Plain Administrator, noted that the land is located in a flood plain.
Some residents also voiced their concerns about the company setting off explosives without any warning, especially near Greenon High School. However, Garrison said the company provides an optional blasting notification service for residents and businesses.
Echo Hills resident Mark Anderson expressed his concerns about blasting that would occur up to 20 times a year, and asked public officials if the EPA would monitor the air quality. Amy Smart, who also lives in Echo Hills Estates, pointed out that she and her neighbors pay the highest property taxes in the township, and her homeowner’s insurance would increase 42 percent if the mining operation moves forward at the end of this year. Resident Kim Mitcham asked Garrison if the company would build a sound barrier around the gravel pit and inquired about the hours of operation. Garrison said that a 15-foot barrier would be built and operation hours would be between 7 a.m. and 4:30 p.m.
As the meeting concluded, one resident received a round of applause when he expressed the views of many residents and yelled, “You get the mine, and we get the shaft.”
Linda Collins is a freelance reporter for Greene County News.