Bushkill Creek dried up

STOCKERTOWN, Pa. – Residents and community stakeholders had an opportunity to voice their concerns at a virtual public hearing to discuss the proposed expansion of a cement quarry in the Borough of Stockertown.

The Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection held the hearing Wednesday for Hercules Cement Company's proposed plan to deepen its mining operation by 50 feet, which would be equivalent to sea level.

Residents and local environmentalists alike say the current mining has already negatively impacted nearby Bushkill Creek. Environmentalists have linked the quarry to sinkholes and mass fish kills when the Bushkill Creek has run dry.

Northampton County Councilperson Tara Zrinski said she is concerned about the potential impact additional quarry pumping would have on the creek.

Tatamy Councilperson Kristine Porter said while her borough would like to work with Hercules to find a fair solution, there is still concern that digging deeper will only exacerbate the sinkhole problem.

"This deepening of the quarry will not result in additional inflow to the quarry," said quarry representative Thomas Gillespie.

According to Gillespie, Hercules is permitted to dig to the proposed depth as long as the digging is conducted over a five- to 10-year period and the quarry monitors the groundwater during the process to ensure that it does not alter the hydrological conditions of Bushkill Creek.

Regarding concerns over sinkholes being caused by the quarry's digging, Gillespie said the region is known as a sinkhole hotspot. He added that the company has researched the matter and plans are underway to install dedicated backup generators to ensure the continuous flow of clean groundwater back into the creek.

Gillespie said the quarry pumps out 53 to 55 million gallons of water per day, well below the permitted maximum of 62 million gallons.

However, several residents said they are concerned that pump failures will cause more damage.

"The health of Bushkill Creek and the creatures that live in the creek are to be considered as well," said Upper Nazareth resident Laura Eberly.

Eberly said a severe explosion from the quarry not too long ago resulted in rocks thrown into her neighborhood which caused damage to local homes.

"It is the obligation of the state to protect its natural resources," said Tracy Carluccio, deputy director of the Delaware Riverkeeper Network. "It is an additional layer of protection that the state is required to act upon."

Carluccio said she is concerned about the impact of millions of gallons of water that will be pumped back into Bushkill Creek each day.

The proposed deepening, she said, would "expand the flow zone, increasing the flow rate and draw down on the water table, and the quarry’s consequences would be significant and severe and likely cause the formation of sinkholes."

Joe Baylog, president of Forks of the Delaware Chapter of Trout Unlimited, said he is concerned the quarry is causing the degradation of coldwater fish and trout in Bushkill Creek.

"Shouldn't we have some idea of where this water is going and what potential harm it's doing underground?" he asked.

Comments regarding the proposal can be submitted to the DEP at RA-EPPENNEAST@pa.gov until June 14.

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