Northampton County Council will ask the state to hold a public hearing on Hercules Cement Company's plan to deepen its Stockertown quarry.
At council's Thursday night meeting, members voted 9-0 to pass a resolution to request a public Department of Environmental Protection hearing to discuss the matter.
Nate Pritchard, watershed specialist with the Northampton County Conservation District, said Hercules proposes to go 50 feet deeper, but the DEP considers the change to be a minor revision so no formal public comment period would be held.
Making the quarry deeper could change the hydrology, or water flow, of the area, Pritchard said. Environmentalists have linked the quarry to sinkholes and mass fish kills when the Bushkill Creek has run dry.
"This will create a more open dialogue with this company and the public," said Councilmember Tara Zrinski of the request for a state hearing on the quarry's plan, which she proposed at Thursday's meeting.
Pritchard said when Hercules Cement's pumps fail, Bushkill Creek goes dry, and that lowering the groundwater table "could increase the rate of sinkhole formation."
The United States Geological Survey says sinkholes can be natural or man-made, and are common in areas like the Lehigh Valley that have underlying limestone.
"It's just been a nightmare," Councilmember Margaret Ferraro said of the sinkholes in the Stockertown area.