At the December 9, 2019 meeting of the Roxboro Kiwanis Club at La Piazza restaurant in Uptown Roxboro, Randy Hester addressed the club about the proposed quarry in Caswell County. A Person County native, he returned home from California to the Hester’s Store community, and learned about the quarry when he was contacted by other concerned citizens from Caswell County.
Hester believes the quarry poses a significant potential risk to farming and groundwater. He spoke of concern that the Prospect Hill area will become a place for undesirable things to be placed as a result. The quarry is to produce rock, concrete and asphalt, similar to an existing one in the Woodsdale area. He considers the latter to be different enough to be distinguishable, however, in that it is not so near surface water sources.
The site is 630 acres adjoining Ridgeville Road in Caswell County, and is within a quarter mile of a stream feeding Lake Roxboro, which is the supplemental water supply for the City of Roxboro. There are other creeks in the area which feed directly into the lake as well. In response to a question, Hester noted that there is no other quarry in the state that is this close to a drinking water supply.
He exhibited a map indicating the location of the actual quarry within the larger tract of which it is to be a part. Its depth is projected to be eventually 500 feet. The same map showed the proposed location of the asphalt and aggregate plants as well.
Hester indicated that the Caswell County commissioners have little input, because the area is not zoned. The permit is granted by the NC Division of Environmental Quality (DEQ). An approved permit will be for the life of the plant, which is a change from prior legislation which required periodic review. He reviewed the grounds upon which a permit can be denied, including adverse effects on groundwater and wildlife, as well as violation of air, surface water or ground water quality standards. Hester reminded the group that the City of Roxboro issues 100 permits for use of Lake Roxboro as a public recreation area, and a significantly adverse effect on such an area is also a criterion for denial. Sediment in stream beds or lakes is an additional concern.
Impact on property values is not an allowable consideration in the permit consideration, and neither are truck traffic and noise. These issues would only be subject to regulation by the local government. The state has provided the quarry operator with a list of its concerns that must be addressed before its application can be processed. Hester said state senator Mike Woodard has contacted DEQ to express his desire for a careful review of the application.
Hester believes that the Caswell County commissioners are likely to declare a moratorium on quarry locations for at least a year in order to provide adequate time for a thorough review. (Caswell County commissioners did agree to a one-year moratorium on Monday.) Opposition first surfaced through some Caswell County farmers. DEQ lists 10 substantive omissions that should have been included with the initial application. Additional testing to determine impact on wells and absence of reference to potential impact on Lake Roxboro are both areas touched upon by the State.
Hester believes the risk of impact on groundwater and Lake Roxboro is high. He exhibited a visual showing the potential of impact on adjoining property wells and the possible effect related to the location of fractured granitic underground features. The quarry could pump out as much as 3,000,000 gallons of water per day in order to keep the pit dry.
He also referred to a map provided by Carolina Sunrock, showing wells that could be potentially impacted by the quarry. A private hydrologist disputed the breadth of impact and the state has therefore required additional study of this issue. He showed a slide depicting a pit where the water will be pumped, then going through a series of ponds and eventually being discharged into a creek feeding into Lake Roxboro. The water is not treated in any way before discharge, except for settlement occurring in the holding ponds.
The initial application did not notify regulators that Lake Roxboro was a recreation area, so DEQ has requested proof that there will be no negative impact in that regard. Hester believes that the state is also concerned about noise pollution from blasting and potential presence of “fly rock.” He also noted the presence of a cemetery and other known archeological sites such as Native American settlements and old mills.
Hester encouraged those who may be skeptical to look at the public records indicating the potential areas of concern.