Written by Lisa Sorg, NC Policy Watch
Two public hearings, six-plus hours and hundreds of people: The controversy over a proposed the quarry on 225 acres of prime wildlife habitat next to Umstead State Park continued this morning as concerned citizens spoke about the effects of the project on a treasured property, as well as on park-goers and neighbors.
Most of the 200 individuals who spoke at the virtual public hearings hosted by the NC Department of Environmental Quality opposed the Wake Stone proposal for an amended mining permit, citing blasting noise, air pollution, destruction of wildlife habitat and harm to water resources, including Crabtree Creek.
Holly Neal worked for two years as a seasonal office administrator at the park’s visitor center. She told DEQ that sediment runoff from Wake Stone’s nearby existing mine already flows into the park, streams and eventually Crabtree Creek. “I’ve seen this myself,” Neal said. “Even with no rain, the stream was very cloudy white.”
David Humphrey, an engineer, said there is “a very strong potential for Crabtree Creek water to discharge into groundwater as a result of quarry dewatering and thereby result in violations of groundwater standards.”
Upstream runoff from the Ward Transformer Superfund site has already contaminated Crabtree Creek with cancer-causing PCBs.
Liz Adams, a research associate at the UNC Institute for the Environment in the field of air quality, monitors levels of PM 2.5 on her bike rides around the park. PM 2.5 is short for particulate matter that is 2.5 microns in size, less than the width of a human hair. Particulate matter this small can burrow deep into the lungs and cause or worsen respiratory and heart disease.
This illustration of the proposed Wake Stone mine expansion shows Interstate 40 to the south and Old Reedy Creek Road to the west. Old Reedy Creek Road leads to Umstead State Park, and is a main entrance off the greenway system. A popular destination for scouting trips, Foxcroft Lake, to the northeast, would span both the mining boundary and the park. (Map: DEQ)
Adams said that she mounted a Plume Flow sensor on her bike to track PM 2.5 levels for one year. On some days, she said, the concentration at the existing quarry entrance of 200 micrograms per cubic meter. The EPA has determined that concentration is unhealthy — or Code Red — and that everyone exposed to that level in the air could suffer health effects. At a level of 201 to 300 micrograms per cubic meter, the air is considered very unhealthy by the EPA.
The land in question, known as the Oddfellows Tract, is technically owned by Wake and Durham counties and Raleigh and Durham, but the Raleigh-Durham Airport Authority manages it. Last year the Airport Authority board leased the tract to Wake Stone for $2 million a move that opponents are challenging in court.
At the time, the Airport Authority board reasoned that RDU needed the money for its expansion plans. However, last month the board significantly scaled back those plans, cut its budget by nearly half and deferred major capital projects because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Raleigh City Councilman David Cox told DEQ that the Airport Authority “didn’t get Raleigh’s permission to lease the tract. We haven’t abdicated our authority or our jurisdiction.”
Former Morrisville Mayor Mark Stohlman also opposed the project because of its potential harm to the park’s trail users.
“The towns of Morrisville and Cary has invested tens of millions of dollars in greenway systems and facilities, including Black Creek, Hatcher Creek and Crabtree Creek trails,” Stohlman said. “All these trails lead directly to Umstead State Park and the Old Reedy Creek Road area, and the thousands of regular trail users will be adversely impacted by the increased noise, dust and truck traffic.”
Supporters included State Rep. Darren Jackson, a Democrat who lives in Knightdale, where Wake Stone operates another quarry; Knightdale Mayor James Roberson and Knightdale Town Manager Bill Summers.
The company donated a $2.5 million park adjacent to the quarry, Jackson said. However, it is common for companies to give money to public projects to help deflect opposition. Wake Stone has also promised to restore some land around the Oddfellows Tract for future trails after the quarry rock is exhausted.
Jackson received a total of $7,500 in campaign contributions from three top Wake Stone officials — Sam Bratton, Theodore Bratton and Tom Oxholm — last October, according to the State Board of Elections.
In 2018 Jackson received $750 from Wake Stone. And in 2017, Wake Stone contributed $4,000 to Jackson’s campaign.
They said they have received no complaints about Wake Stone’s operations in Knightdale. “They’ve been good partner and neighbor and a key stakeholder in our community,” Roberson said.
Wake Stone received a mining permit in 1981 to operate on nearby land off Harrison Avenue and I-40. The company, which runs several quarries in central North Carolina, claims that its current proposal, a 300-foot deep mine, is merely an expansion.
And since the project is an expansion, Wake Stone believes it should be subject to the original mining permit from 1981. The permit contains a “sunset clause” whose original language required the company to offer the land to the state after mining operations ceased or 50 years, whichever is sooner.
If held to the original wording, Wake Stone would have no interest in the current mining land — or the Oddfellows Tract for the expansion — after 2031.
But in 2011 and again in March 2018, when Wake Stone was working on its expansion proposal, the company asked DEQ to change the permit to say “later,” rather than “sooner.” The company said the wording was a typographical error and should align with the original language in a Mining Commission document. That document does say “later.”
The Mining Commission has not met since 2015. However, a bill in the legislature today would consider the governor’s appointment of Sam Bratton of Wake Stone to the commission.
In response to Wake Stone’s request, DEQ changed the permit wording, but did not hold a public hearing or notify local city or county governments. DEQ had deemed that the change was not substantial, even though the effect was to allow mining to proceed for an indefinite period of time.
Continue reading on NC Policy Watch
RALEIGH, NC ― Plans to build a new quarry adjacent to one of North Carolina’s busiest state parks and US bike routes is facing significant opposition from community leaders. The new 400 foot deep rock mine would be the first private quarry on public land in the State of North Carolina and would set a new precedent for public land management in the state. The quarry is planned to be built on 105 acres known as the “Odd Fellows Tract”, adjacent to one of North Carolina’s most visited state parks, US Bike Route 1 and the East Coast Greenways, which run from Maine to Florida.
A virtual Public Hearing continues today, July 7, 2020 starting at 9 a.m. with speakers that include experts ranging from environmental scientists, wildlife experts, civil and environmental engineers, educators, advocacy groups, politicians and concerned Triangle residents.
“We have demonstrated clear evidence for denial according to the criteria in the NC Mining Act,” said Dr. Jean Spooner, Chair of The Umstead Coalition. “Adverse and unmitigatable impacts would occur to potable groundwater supplies; wildlife; Crabtree Creek; water and air quality standards; direct hazard to public health, safety and property; our prized William B. Umstead State Park and the connected Old Reedy Creek Road Corridor.”
Local elected officials share the public’s concern for the new quarry. The Town of Morrisville unanimously passed a Resolution on June 23, 2020 requesting the NC Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) deny the mining permit application. This joins two statements previously released by the City of Raleigh in 2019 and Wake County in 2017.
North Carolina State Senator Wiley Nickel and Wake County Open Space and Parks Advisory Committee have also issued statements opposing the quarry requesting denial of the permit. The Regional Transportation Alliance RDU Airport Infrastructure Development (AID) task force recommended RDU "should revisit the entire 2040 master plan given the reality of an adjacent, beloved state park" citing the proposed quarry as a “costly distraction” for the RDU Airport. The Town of Cary has engaged a consultant to evaluate the potential impacts to Town facilities including the North Cary Water Reclamation Facility, Old Reedy Creek Road and Cary’s one-lane bridge.
“The southern end of Umstead represents the best chance to make sure the state park remains ecologically connected to other natural areas, particularly Jordan Lake, which has. over 40,000 acres of public forest/gamelands,” said Dr. Ron Sutherland, Chief Scientist, Wildlands Network. “Jordan Lake's forests are also connected (via several large rivers) to the broader network of habitat across North Carolina, and it is essential to try to keep Umstead linked together with that network.”
Opponents to the quarry are advocating for preserving the Odd Fellows Tract —publicly owned land and deeded to the four local governments: City of Raleigh, City of Durham, Wake County and Durham County. The Raleigh-Durham Airport Authority (RDUAA) manages the land for the four local government owners.
The Odd Fellows Tract was purchased in 1976 for a runway never built due to public opposition over the harm to Umstead State Park. The Tract is located two miles from the nearest runway at Raleigh Durham International Airport (RDU). The NC State Park system has identified the Odd Fellows Tract as “Critical” for land acquisition for new single-track bike trails and water quality protection for the adjacent Crabtree Creek that runs through the middle of Umstead State Park, as well as connecting to the Neuse River, a major river system in NC.
In 2017, The Conservation Fund offered to buy the Odd Fellows Tract from RDU to expand Umstead State Park. The RDUAA did not accept the offer from the Conservation Fund, and also rejected an offer from the private mining company.
After a long period of “silence,” with only two days' notice to the public, and no public discussion, in March 2019, RDUAA executed an Option and Lease Agreement with Wake Stone for the proposed RDU quarry. The RDUAA Board meeting lasted 4 minutes and 17 seconds. The agreement did not follow the normal contracting procedures of the RDUAA. This mineral lease is subject to approval of a NC Mining Permit.
The public can submit comments to DEQ and local elected officials until July 17, 2020.
About The Umstead Coalition:
The Umstead Coalition has been working since the 1960’s to support and protect William B. Umstead State Park through fundraising, sponsorship of volunteer activities, and oversight of environmental and legal protections. William B. Umstead State Park was established in 1934 as a public works project during the Great Depression. For more information, visit https://umsteadcoalition.org.
Download a PDF version
From the Town of Cary's website:
DEQ held a public hearing on June 23, 2020 for the Wake Stone Mining Permit modification on the RDU-managed land adjacent to the existing quarry, north of I-40. The public hearing went late into the evening and DEQ was unable to hear all registered speakers. Another hearing will be held Tuesday, July 7, 2020 for the remainder of the registered speakers. The opportunity to provide written comment has also been extended to Friday, July 17, 2020. View more information about the hearing and public comment period at the DEQ's website.
The Town has been following this project and has met with citizens who have expressed concerns. Most recently, Umstead Coalition representatives raised concerns about the project’s potential impact to Town facilities, including the North Cary Water Reclamation Facility. The Town also has an interest in the portion of Old Reedy Creek Road, including the bridge, that is located south of I-40. Based on this, staff have engaged one of our on-call consulting firms to help us monitor the permitting of the new RDU mine. The consultant will help us monitor developments in the complex and unfamiliar permitting process to ensure regulators have the information they need to avoid unintended impacts to Town facilities. We want to remain open to the expressed concerns of citizens and neither validate or set-aside their concerns without independently validating them with our consultants.
The public is invited to participate in the hearing online or listen by phone. Only previously registered speakers will have the opportunity to speak.
Read on the Town of Cary's website
Town of Morrisville, Senator Wiley Nickel & Wake County Open Space Committee Request Denial of the Wake Stone Mining Permit
RALEIGH, NC: More than 570 people attended the virtual public hearing on June 23 for the Wake Stone Corporation mining permit application for RDU Quarry. Due to the large number of registered speakers who did not get to speak during the allotted four hours, NC DEQ’s Division of Energy, Mining and Land Resources (DEMLR) scheduled a continuation of the hearing for July 7 at 9 a.m. EDT.
Over 75 speakers voiced their concern about the new quarry planned for the Odd Fellows Tract, 105 acres adjacent to William B. Umstead State Park, one of the busiest and most popular state parks in North Carolina. The speakers included experts ranging from environmental scientists, wildlife experts, civil and environmental engineers, educators, advocacy groups, politicians and concerned Triangle residents. The only supporter of the quarry was Wake Stone President Sam Bratton. Speakers had two minutes to provide their comments.
Local elected officials share the public’s concern for the new quarry. The Town of Morrisville unanimously passed a resolution on June 23 requesting DEQ deny the mining permit application. This joins two statements previously released by the City of Raleigh in 2019 and Wake County in 2017.
Senator Wiley Nickel and Wake County Open Space and Parks Advisory Committee have also issued statements this week opposing the quarry requesting denial of the permit.
“We have demonstrated clear evidence for denial according to the criteria in the Mining Act of 1971,” said Dr. Jean Spooner, Chair of The Umstead Coalition. “Adverse and unmitigatable impacts would occur to potable groundwater supplies; wildlife; Crabtree Creek; water and air quality standards; direct hazard to public health, safety and property; our prized William B. Umstead State Park and the connected Old Reedy Road Corridor.”
“The southern end of Umstead represents the best chance to make sure the state park remains ecologically connected to other natural areas, particularly Jordan Lake, which has over 40,000 acres of public forest/gamelands,” said Dr. Ron Sutherland, Chief Scientist, Wildlands Network. “Jordan Lake's forests are also connected (via several large rivers) to the broader network of habitat across North Carolina, and it is essential to try to keep Umstead linked together with that network.”
Opponents to the quarry are advocating for preserving the Odd Fellows Tract —publicly owned land and deeded to the four local governments: City of Raleigh, City of Durham, Wake County and Durham County. RDU manages the land for the four local government owners.
In 2017, The Conservation Fund offered to buy the Odd Fellows Tractfrom RDU to expand Umstead State Park and build single-track bicycle/pedestrian trails. The RDU Airport Authority (RDUAA) did not accept the offer from the Conservation Fund, but executed an Option and Lease Agreement with Wake Stone for the proposed RDU Quarry in March 2019.
At the continuation hearing on July 7, only previously registered speakers will have the opportunity to speak. Details for the public hearing on July 7 can be found on the DEQ website. The public can submit comments to DEQ and local elected officials until July 17, 2020.
The Umstead Coalition has been working since 1972 to support and protect William B. Umstead State Park through fundraising, sponsorship of volunteer activities, and oversight of environmental and legal protections. For more information, visit https://umsteadcoalition.org.
Download a PDF of the press release here.
Raleigh, NC - Jun 24, 2020
The Division of Energy, Mineral, and Land Resources (DEMLR) will continue the digital public hearing on a permit modification for Wake Stone Corporation on Tuesday, July 7, 2020 to accommodate pre-registered speakers.
Since the number of registered speakers exceeded the allotted time during the June 23 public hearing, the Division Director determined it necessary to hold a second day of the digital public hearing to receive comments on the application. Based on current guidance to stop the spread of COVID-19 and protect public health, members of the public can participate online or listen via telephone.
The public is invited to participate online or listen by phone. Only previously registered speakers will have the opportunity to speak.
WHEN: Tuesday, July 7, 2020, 9:00 a.m.
ONLINE: Cisco WebEx Link:
Meeting Number (Access Code): 617 499 551
Meeting Password: DEQ123
PHONE: (415) 655-0003
Access code: 161 004 6542
To submit public comment or obtain additional information concerning the hearing, email email@example.com or write:
Assistant State Mining Specialist
Division of Energy, Mineral and Land Resources
1612 Mail Service Center
Raleigh, North Carolina 27699-1612
The proceedings will remain open for a period of ten days following the hearing for additional written arguments or statements ending on Friday, July 17, 2020.
DEQ will consider all public comments and other available information about the permit application before deciding whether to issue the final permit, deny the permit or issue it with amended conditions.
The application, public notice and proposed mine maps can be found at: https: https://deq.nc.gov/about/divisions/energy-mineral-land-resources/energy-mineral-land-permits/mining-program.
"As DEMLR prepares to hold a public hearing on the fate of a forested area neighboring William B. Umstead State Park this evening, Senator Wiley Nickel calls on DEMLR to prevent disastrous environmental destruction, public health concerns, and detrimental local economic impact."
"Be it resolved that the Morrisville Town Council hereby requests the NC Department of Environmental Quality to deny the permit for Wake Stone Corporation's mining permit modification application if determined to have a significantly adverse effect on air, surface water or ground water quality and based on the potential negative impacts on the environment and quality of life in the surrounding area due the town's proximate location to Umstead State Park and Lake Crabtree County Park."
Download a PDF of the resolution.
Letter from Wake Open Space and Parks Advisory Committee to the Wake County Board of Commissioners on June, 22, 2020.
Download a PDF of the letter here.
Public Hearing Expected to Draw Hundreds Supporting William B. Umstead State Park
Raleigh, NC - The upcoming public hearing on June 23 for the Wake Stone Corporation Mining Permit application for RDU Quarry has drawn significant attention from the Triangle community. More than twelve hundred public comments have been submitted to NC DEQ’s Division of Energy, Mining, and Land Resources (DEMLR) calling for denial of the permit.
“The community outcry has been impressive and sustained“ said Dr. Jean Spooner, Chair of the Umstead Coalition. “Clearly the public does not want to endure the adverse impacts on Umstead State Park, nor the perpetual liability to the public from the first private rock mine to be placed on public property next to a NC State Park.”
The proposed RDU Quarry would create a new rock mine on the 105 acre, forested Odd Fellows Tract — public land owned by the Cities of Raleigh and Durham and the Counties of Wake and Durham. The new quarry will be over 400 feet deep and adjacent to Umstead State Park, Crabtree Creek, the East Coast Greenway and the popular Old Reedy Creek Road recreational corridor that connects Lake Crabtree County Park to Umstead State Park.
With today being the 155th anniversary of Juneteenth, the racial history behind the Reedy Creek Park entrance to Umstead State Park at Harrison Avenue should be recognized and appreciated for its important historical significance to the Black community. Until 1968, the Park was segregated and this was the entrance for one of only two state parks for enjoyment by the Black community. Park users today at this specific entrance to Umstead State Park in Cary — now have to avoid truck conflicts from Wake Stone’s Triangle Quarry that would continue with the new proposed quarry.
Opponents to the quarry are also concerned about significant environmental harm to Umstead State Park and negative public health impacts on recreational users of the Park and the homeowners along Old Reedy Creek Road.
“The Odd Fellows Tract is a forested buffer absorbing pollution from I-40, and protecting Crabtree Creek,” said Liz Adams, Research Associate at the UNC Institute for the Environment. “Drilling, blasting, crushing, and using trucks to haul rocks over Crabtree Creek will create new air pollution (silica dust, NOx) exposures to vulnerable populations including children, elderly, and minorities causing increased risk of premature death for those who use the East Coast Greenway, the Company Mill Trail.
The Sierra Club Capital Group requested an Environmental Justice Snapshot Report for Mining Permit No. 92-10 due to the disproportionate impact that this permit modification will have on minority and vulnerable users of Umstead State Park, including its extensive youth outreach programs.”
The Umstead Coalition and other environmental and recreational organizations are calling for supporters of Umstead State Park and advocates for preserving the land to attend the virtual public hearing on June 23, 2020 at 6 p.m. This is the last chance for the public to speak, please register and attend. Details for the virtual public hearing can be found on the DEQ website.
About The Umstead Coalition
The Umstead Coalition has been working since 1972 to support and protect William B. Umstead State Park through fundraising, sponsorship of volunteer activities, and oversight of environmental and legal protections: https://umsteadcoalition.org/
#### END ###
Download a PDF of the Press Release here.
View the recording of our live podcast and video interview with The Triangle Talk Show.
We’re excited to announce we’ll be doing a live podcast and video interview on The Triangle Talk Show today, June 9 at 7 p.m. ET. It will be an action-packed conversation! We'll be talking about:
WATCH ON YOUTUBE WATCH ON FACEBOOK
About The Triangle Talk Show
The Triangle Talk Show is an audio podcast, available on most podcast apps, including Tune-In and Spotify. The recording, show notes and links will be available at TriangleTalkShow.com.
EMAIL SIGN UP
Support us with Amazon Smile