No mining at proposed Mad River Twp. quarry years after land sale

Credit: Bill Lackey

Credit: Bill Lackey

Residents opposed to project pack school cafeteria to voice concerns about property values, environment and more.

More than 400 acres of land purchased for limestone mining nearly eight years ago by Enon Sand and Gravel sits vacant still, even as Mad River Twp. residents who oppose the project plan their next steps.

“I want to stress how important it is that we act as a community,” said Kathleen Mathews, a member of Clark County-based organization Citizens Against Mining, also called CAM. “This is our property, these are our wells.”

As of last week, Enon Sand and Gravel has not filed paperwork for the conditional use permit to begin mining at its Mad River Twp. property, according to the Clark County Board of Zoning Appeals.

Jurgensen Companies, which owns Enon Sand and Gravel and a dozen other aggregates companies in Ohio, did not respond to requests for comment in regard to its future plans for the property.

The CAM annual meeting Wednesday night attracted a crowd that packed the Greenon Elementary School’s cafeteria.

Since its founding in 2017, CAM has voiced concern about how the quarry could affect property values, traffic flow, air quality, noise and wildlife conservation efforts.

The area surrounding the quarry contains more than 200 households, Greenon Local School District buildings and several businesses. Some of these stakeholders fear their well water may be impacted by run-off from mining.

How it started

The mining company in 2015 began purchasing land parcels in the area near Echo Hills in Mad River Twp.

Enon Sand and Gravel the following year applied to the Ohio Department of Natural Resources (ODNR) to mine limestone and merge two existing permits into one.

In 2017, the company filed for a permit with the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to discharge wastewater into Mud Run in Mad River Twp. The company withdrew its application last year.

Clark County settled a $25,000 lawsuit with Enon Sand and Gravel in 2018 over its requiring the company to go through the Board of Zoning Appeals for permitting to begin mining.

At that time, the company asserted mining was grandfathered into the agricultural use zoning of the property.

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The county formed the zoning board in November 1964, according to court documents. The company and its predecessors have been using the property for surface mining since before 1955, meaning its grandfathered in and doesn’t need a conditional use permit from the zoning board, the company alleged in its lawsuit against the county.

CAM members in turn filed an appeal with the state and their own lawsuit against the company.

Clark County’s court ruled the company needed a conditional use permit for surface mining and mineral extraction on the property.

Credit: Bill Lackey

Credit: Bill Lackey

Water safety

Previously, the company and several state agencies — Ohio EPA, ODNR and Mine Safety Health Administration — said a limestone quarry will not pose a threat to safety.

CAM members fear the quarry could impact their well water.

Not only is water necessary for life and a part of a person’s daily routine, it is a valuable resource that is plentiful in the region, said Miami Conservancy District watershed partnerships manager Sarah Hippensteel at CAM’s annual meeting.

Clark County rests above the Mad River Watershed, which is a part of the Great Miami River Watershed.

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The Great Miami River Watershed stores approximately 1.5 trillion gallons of groundwater and supplies drinking water to an estimated 2.3 million people. More than 6,000 miles of rivers and streams stretch across this watershed, Hippensteel said.

Hippensteel said plentiful, high-quality water is a crucial component of an area’s health and economy. Industries even eye the area for its plentiful access to quality water, and people are attracted to the area for water recreation like fishing.

Others in the citizens group have voiced other conservation concerns, given the presence of three surrounding fens in the area.

10,000 years to develop

Fens are a type of wetland that receives nutrients from sources like surface and groundwater. They’re less acidic than bogs and have higher nutrient levels, meaning they can support a diversity of wildlife, according to the U.S. EPA.

One of the fens is across the road from the Garrison Road mining property, Mathews said. She and others fear work at the proposed mining site could disrupt the nearby fens.

“When we talk to people who don’t live here, they say ‘Oh my gosh, this is so special,’” Mathews said. “Fens are very, very special… they take 10,000 years to develop.”

As they wait for an update about the permitting status of the company, CAM members are asking people living in the Mad River Twp. area surrounding the site to connect with them through the email address listed on their website.

CAM members encourage people who use wells to learn more about their wells and their construction. They encourage frequent sampling of wells for bacteria and looking for changes in appearance to their water.

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