Watershed associations and water protectors plan to attend a meeting Thursday at US Silica and raise concerns about the company’s plan to move blasting operations closer to Berkeley Springs.
US Silica will hold an open house on Thursday April 13 between 5 pm and 7 pm at its plant at 2496 Hancock Road in Berkeley Springs.
The meeting is open to the public, according to US Silica spokesperson Michael Lawson.
Lawson said that company officials will be available to answer questions residents may have about the proposal.
Also attending the meeting will be representatives from the West Virginia Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) who must approve US Silica’s permit application before the company can proceed with blasting.
When asked for a copy of the permit application, Lawson said he couldn’t provide it because it was still in draft form.
The DEP has yet to post the permit application on its web site.
Local resident Bob Wurster said that southward expansion of mining operations announced by US Silica is in conflict with the Morgan County Comprehensive Plan – in particular the “sensitive area” section outlined in chapter six of that plan.
“The stated goal of that section is ‘encouraging reduction of the contamination of ground water and protection of the recharge areas for the natural springs in the Town of Bath,’” Wurster said.
“The recharge area and water supply for Berkeley Springs have been studied extensively by federal agencies, state government, and several engineering firms,” Wurster said. “USGS and WVU geologists and hydrologists have mapped the aquifer. The area that US Silica proposes to strip and mine is entirely contained within the water protection zone of influence designated by the West Virginia Bureau for Public Health.”
“In plain English, the proposed mountain removal and deep pit rock extraction is a direct threat to the Berkeley Springs, the sole source of water for the Town of Bath and the surrounding area. The springs are the single most important economic engine for Morgan County. It is foolish to jeopardize our future in order to mine every last ton of rock.”
Wurster said that “the path that groundwater takes as it recharges the springs is complex.”
“To keep up with public and commercial demand, a large recharge area is essential,” Wurster said. “That is what every water study completed for Berkeley Springs says. Pumping out groundwater that collects in the mine pit has always been part of the mining operation. Extending the mine southward will divert still more groundwater into the pit. Can US Silica absolutely guarantee that mining closer to the springs won’t reduce our water supply?”
Wurster urged the people of Morgan County to oppose Silica’s proposed move south.
“A good place to start is to attend the open house at US Silica on Thursday, April 13,” he said. “Once a permit is granted, there will be no turning back. If spring flow is reduced, the burden for a new and very expensive Potomac River water system will be on the backs of Morgan County taxpayers, not US Silica.”