Rutland Herald

Omya plan draws crowd

September 28, 2000
By SANDI SWITZER Herald Correspondent

DANBY - It took a 23-acre quarry proposal to draw the largest crowd in recent history to the Danby Four Corners Town Hall.

People traveled from nearly every corner of Rutland County on Tuesday to hear OMYA Inc. lay out plans for a calcium carbonate mine on nearby Dutch Hill.

The building capacity of 240 seats was easily surpassed as the overflow crowd watched proceedings on a monitor set up near the front steps of Town Hall.

OMYA was well represented; about a dozen company officials took seats on the stage to provide an overview of the project before fielding nearly three hours of questions.

Pluess-Staufer Industries Inc. President John Mitchell started the evening off by detailing a laundry list of products that included calcium carbonate: paint, paper, plastics, cereal, aspirin, cleanser and more.

He said the company needed to open another quarry to meet a worldwide demand for the product.

"We have a saying at work, if it isn't made out of wood, it's made out of calcium carbonate," James Reddy, chief executive of North American Operations, later added.

Company officials said the 23-acre quarry, located on a 33-acre site, would have a 50-year lifespan.

Quarry activities would include drilling, blasting, crushing, screening and loading product to be transported to the Florence processing plan, according to Reddy.

Hours of operation would be from 7 a.m. to 6 p.m. six days a week, with blasting occurring up to three times a week, he said.

The company has hired a panel of experts to research economic, transportation, environmental and historical impacts on the region.

OMYA has asked that reports from those experts be completed by late fall so an Act 250 permit application can be filed next spring.

Questions from the crowd - dominated by project opponents from Danby, Pawlet, Tinmouth, Wallingford, Middletown Springs and other communities - touched on a wide range of issues.

They asked about truck traffic, disruption of water supplies, blasting impacts, health hazards, noise, pollution, aesthetics, a decline in property values and quality-of-life issues.

Lynn Bondurant of Danby questioned whether the company would expand beyond the 33-acre site, since it owns land all the way to the Tinmouth border.

"All we are asking for is a 50-year permit for 33 acres," Reddy responded.

However, he did not rule out the possibility of filing for a permit amendment at some point in the future.

Carter James of Danby asked the difference between a strip mine, as some opponents have labeled the project, and a quarry.

Reddy said a strip mine involves a continuous process of mining a thin layer of overburden and other top layers, often consuming hundreds of acres a year.

The Jobe Phillips project would include clearing the overburden for a couple of years then digging straight down for the next 48 years, he said.

"This is a quarry, there is a big difference between a strip mine and a quarry," Reddy said.

In response to a question about noise, OMYA attorney Edward V. Schwiebert noted Danby does not have zoning or limitations on sound or decibel levels, but that Act 250 typically imposes restrictions.

Company officials declined a request to share a portion of local profits with Danby or to release annual revenue estimates.

They agreed to post a bond to cover water disruptions, but not for the loss of real estate values or health-related issues, assuring residents it would be a safe operation.

Pawlet Selectman Robert Jones said the 80 daily truck trips associated with the project would damage roads and reduce property values for landowners along the route.

"Where's Pawlet going to benefit from this?" he asked.

Ann Miller of Wallingford directed a similar question regarding potential impacts of truck traffic on her town's historic village.

Reddy said the mode of transportation has yet to be determined, and a variety of alternatives are being explored.

Company officials said they would be willing to return to Danby with more specifics once experts have finalized their reports.

Jennifer Parent of Danby asked if the company would abandon its plans if townspeople voted to oppose the project.

"We are proceeding to get an Act 250 permit. If we don't get the permit, it's a moot point. If we do get the permit, we open the quarry," Reddy said.