Test wells in place at OMYA site

Manchester Journal
article reprinted with permission


By Anita Pomerance
Journal Correspondent

DANBY - According to hydrogeologist Eric Hansen of Pioneer Environmental Associates, OMYA has been conducting pump tests on 24 wells around its proposed calcium carbonate quarry in the valley north of Danby Four Corners.

The water in one of the wells has been pumped at the rate of 375 gallons per minute, which he said was "high yield."

He explained that the pump tests were being conducted in 15 wells recently drilled by OMYA, plus three existing well holes, as well as six privately-owned, "domestic drinking water wells."

Pioneer Environmental Associates has been retained by OMYA to carry out a groundwater study requested by the State of Vermont prior to application for an Act 250 permit.

The plan was presented to the state in the summer of 2001.

Hansen said that he could not report on any results of the pump tests at this time.

He explained that the study began in January 2002, when the state gave permission to proceed, and will be completed in January 2003. After that, he and his associates will need another three or four months to study the data.

According to Michael Smith, hydrogeologist at the Vermont Agency of Natural Resources, a pump test explores aquifer characteristics. He explained that by pumping at a constant rate, one can see what happens to other wells, or stream levels, and figure out the capacity of the aquifer.

The results of a pump test, he said, can tell where the water is coming from, what would happen to the aquifer if water were removed, and of particular interest in this case, whether pumping will affect the adjacent fens (rare wetlands.)

Smith confirmed that a flow of more than 300 gallons per minute was high for Vermont, but "if you found that rate, it would be in fractured limestone," such as that on the proposed site.

In the summer of 2001, state ecologist Eric Sorenson of the Vermont Agency of Natural Resources expressed concern that OMYA's operation might damage the fragile wetlands to the east, especially five acres of "rich fen," which he said provided a natural community for rare and uncommon species of plants and animals.

Last December, Tinmouth fen, a 1,100 acre state-owned wetland to the north, was given Class One status. It is one of three in the state to be given that status, and the largest.