NEW HANOVER >> The monthly zoning hearings on the 18 acres that Gibraltar Rock would like to open as a second quarry site continued Thursday night with an expert paid by the quarry company rebutting testimony from an expert paid by the township who had disputed testimony from the company expert.
In October, Toby Kessler from engineering firm of Gilmore and Assoc., testified on behalf of New Hanover Township, that the pumping of groundwater from a new quarry pit north of Hoffmansville Road could draw groundwater pollution from a nearby former home heating oil site into the open and ultimately into a nearby stream.
Kessler also testified that Gibraltar Rock’s plans for treatment of the chemical contamination were inadequate for the substances in the underground plume of pollution.
He was refuting February, 2016 testimony by Lou Vittorio, from an engineering firm called EarthRes, who was hired by Gibraltar Rock to draw up those plans.
On Thursday, Vittorio fired back in the way only engineers can, with charts, formulas and technical explanations about gradient, underground strikes and something called a “composite capture zone.”
And if this wasn’t enough engineering for you, Robert Brant, the township’s special solicitor for quarry matters, will cross-examine Vittorio at the next monthly meeting of the zoning hearing board on April 6 at 6:30 p.m.
Currently at issue is the proximity of the second quarry site, called GR-IV, to the former Good’s Oil site off Route 663, north of Big Road, which the state Department of Environmental Protection has determined to be the source of chemical contamination of volatile organic compounds of surrounding residential wells.
Since then, township officials have begun to question whether a quarry operation in GR IV would exacerbate the groundwater pollution at the neighboring Good’s Oil site and spread it to other wells and into Swamp Creek, a tributary of Perkiomen Creek, a public drinking water source.
Vittorio testified again Thursday night that the flow of the contamination “plume” is flowing southwest, under Route 663.
He said he is sure “within a reasonable degree of scientific certainty,” that the quarry operations will not exacerbate the pollution.
He also testified that under DEP rules, the quarry’s discharge permit must be renewed ever five years, allowing the conditions of the permit to be changed to adapt to any change in conditions or groundwater that may have been discovered in monitoring wells or the discharge.
Similarly, every time the quarry goes another 50-foot layer down and opens a new “lift,” as they are called, the permit is again reviewed by DEP and changes can be made, meaning the protection measures the quarry is required to take could occur more frequently than every five years, Vittorio testified.
He also testified that the DEP permit requires the company to keep a “reclamation bond” to cover the costs of closing up the quarry should it go out of business. That too, can be altered as conditions and materials expenses change, each time the permit is renewed.
Currently, it stands at about $1.4 million, Vittorio said.
The discovery last July of a concrete vault with liquid pollutants, including pesticides and petroleum products, as well as the chemicals which already contaminated the wells, prompted the DEP’s mining to instruct Gibraltar to alter its plans to also begin monitoring for those pollutants as well, which the company has done, according to Vittorio.