Plans for old mine get mixed reactions

Published 12:00 am Saturday, June 3, 2006

WASHINGTON TOWNSHIP — Is a proposed plan going to bring trash or some treasures?

A New York company’s plans to first mine lands in Northern Lawrence County and then construct a landfill on a portion of the mined lands has some seeing red and others seeing green — as in money.

Some conservationists and people who use rural lands for recreation are furious at the thought of a landfill that will likely accept out-of-state garbage on property surrounded by federal forest and Nature Conservancy-held lands.

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Others say the venture will bring desperately needed jobs and money to an economically struggling county.

Executives with Chartwell International, which purchased the locally-based Bellville Mining last year, plans to take local government and business officials on a tour of the site next month and show them what is being planned.

Thomas Bellville, former owner of Bellville Mining, said although he sold his company to Chartwell, he is assisting the new firm with its venture.

Bellville said plans are to surface mine a portion of more than 8,000 acres of land and deep mine the remainder. If all goes well, the landfill would be opened on a 5-10-acre site of the strip-mined land.

“The landfill would not a quick thing,” he said.” That would be two or three years down the road.” The mining of the coal, clay and limestone may commence within the year.

Bellville said the landfill would accept both construction and demolition (C&D) debris and household, or solid waste. He said to make the landfill profitable, out of area waste would be needed to help pay the cost of constructing a landfill, which can run into the millions of dollars.

Rich Fox, supervisor of the solid waste division for the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency’s southeast regional office, said he met last week with Bellville and Imre Eszenyi, vice-president of Chartwell International, in what he categorized as an introductory session. He said it was the first time he had met with the two men.

“It was kind of to let us know they still intend to develop a viable business but they are a long way from starting anything,” Fox said.

Fox said ERail executives met EPA officials late last year and indicated the mining would be the major focus of the endeavor.

Fox said the EPA has not received any application for any sort of landfill at this time and that obtaining the necessary permit, even for a C&D landfill would take a great deal of time, a solid waste permit even more so.

“With an MSW (solid waste) permit, the applicant must publicize and then conduct its own public meeting with 35 days of submitting their application to us,” Fox said.

… “From out point of view, the time frames are very undefined, very hard to predict. I feel confident in saying the potential for MSW development is probably years out, a C&D less so, with a little more gray areas.

“Even if you own property, they are not going to be able to start construction (on a landfill) until they have a permit and the permitting process, which I do not know has even started to take shape, is six to 12 months and then 1-3 years for a review period — if it was a perfect permit it might go faster but they usually don’t.”

Esenyi was contacted at his New York office but did not return the phone call as of press time.

Regardless of how fast or slow the plans may be, officials with the U.S. Nature Conservancy have expressed dismay at the idea of a landfill going into this section of Lawrence County, since the proposed mining and landfill site would be surrounded by lands owned by the Nature Conservancy and the Wayne National Forest.

They also question why very little has been said about it publicly and suspects most Lawrence Countians have no idea what is being planned.

“Our view is this: This is important to the people of Lawrence County,” said Rick Shank, state director of the Nature Conservancy. “Something like a landfill has more negatives than positives and the community should be well aware of it and it should be up to them if they want this business in their community.”

Shank pointed out that a landfill in the middle of woodlands already used for recreation would be a detriment to the WNF and to future attempts to develop the area as a recreational spot. He said forestry officials and N.C. officials have tried to work with local leaders to make the forest more economically viable for the county.

Some local officials say the idea could be a positive one for the county. Dr. Bill Dingus, director of the Lawrence County Chamber of Commerce, said this could be one way to provide well-paying jobs to rural Lawrence Countians without them having to travel far from home to earn that paycheck.

“There has been a lot of concern about lack of jobs in the rural part of the county,” he said. “This could be a positive for jobs.”

Dingus also said the mining part of the venture would maximize the economic potential of some of the county’s most abundant natural resources: Coal, clay and limestone.

He pointed out there is a demand for all three minerals but there are no limestone quarries operating in the county at this time.

Dingus said another plus to the plan is that having a landfill operating in the county may help local officials with another problem that is all too pervasive: Illegal dumping.

But Shank disagreed with the idea that this venture could solve the county’s economic malaise.

“I don’t see this as something that solves chronic problems in Lawrence County,” he said.