By Blair Ames, Baltimore Sun Media Group
8:25 AM EDT, May 3, 2013
Daniel Ely rattled off his concerns about the possible effects an expansion of Lehigh Cement Company's New Windsor quarry could have on local waterways, nearby wells and its potential to increase sinkholes.
Stopping to catch his breath after about 10 minutes, the New Windsor resident asked others at Thursday's public hearing, "Want me to keep going?"
Many responded with an emphatic yes and a round of applause in front of officials from the Maryland Department of the Environment and the Army Corps of Engineers.
Ely was one of about 80 Carroll County residents who attended a nearly three-hour hearing on federal and state permits sought by Lehigh to expand its New Windsor quarry operation. Residents shared concerns about expansion of the conveyor system and a possible rail spur.
Lehigh has proposed expanding its mining operations in New Windsor between Route 31 and Old New Windsor Road because its Union Bridge mine is expected to be depleted within the next nine years.
The limestone mined from New Windsor is expected to be transported to Union Bridge via a 4.5-mile conveyor system. Forty percent of the conveyor would be underground, between 10 and 60 feet deep, with the remaining portions covered to reduce noise, Lehigh officials said at the hearing.
The hearing was just another step in a years-long process to acquire permits to expand the New Windsor mining facility to 535 acres. The expansion is expected to allow Lehigh to mine in New Windsor for another 70 to 80 years.
Lehigh representatives began the hearing by presenting their plans for the expansion, and emphasized nothing had changed since the plans were first introduced to the public.
Kurt Deery, an environmental engineer with Lehigh, said after the hearing that the next step in the process is to review county permits. If it all is approved, construction to expand the New Windsor mine could begin in the "first quarter of 2014."
MDE spokesman Jay Apperson said there is no time frame on when the agency would make a decision on the permit applications.
If the conveyor is not approved, Lehigh's backup plan is to transport 12,000 tons of limestone from New Windsor to Union Bridge by railway three to six times a day.
Deery said Lehigh ruled out transporting the limestone via trucks because that would equal 600 trucks making deliveries every day.