PITTSBORO — Misty Batten has asthma and a newborn baby. She fears that dust from a planned rock quarry near her Siler City home will harm her health and her daughter's.
On Tuesday, Batten shared these concerns with officials from the state's Department of Environment and Natural Resources in a public hearing for ISP Mineral Inc.'s mining application.
Quarry supporters also spoke out Tuesday. Siler City needs the 125 to 150 jobs ISP Minerals projects, with salaries the company estimates at $40,000 to $100,000 a year, they said.
"The Chamber of Commerce diligently researched the environment, economy and commerce at ISP's mining sites throughout the U.S.," said Jody Minor, a member of the county's Chamber of Commerce board. They found few violations and a company that fit in well with neighboring businesses, he said.
About 100 people packed the county's superior courtroom for the hearing, and 33 people spoke.
Earlier this month, the Siler City Town Council unanimously approved a rezoning request that will allow Maryland-based ISP to build a quarry to mine rock for roofing granules on more than 1,000 acres in the town's planning jurisdiction.
Now, the company is applying to the state for a required mining permit. The department granted a public hearing because the issue has been controversial in Siler City, a town of 8,000, and throughout the county.
After the town council's decision, Guy Loeffler, the owner of a winery adjacent to the site, vowed to sue the town for its decision, saying dust and noise from the quarry will threaten his business.
Donald Tarkenton, who served on the town's Planning Board until last month, told department officials Tuesday that the Planning Board spent 300 hours researching ISP. He said Planning Board members live in Siler City and would not have approved a project that would endanger their own families.
As a result of public outcry, the planning department included 19 conditions the company must meet, he said.
They include a requirement that ISP not operate on Sundays and that, other than blasting, noise levels should not exceed 65 decibels.
"We think those recommendations are a reasonable compromise between the two sides," Tarkenton said.
But Ken Winter, a radiologist whose farm is adjacent to the planned quarry site, told department officials that dust from crushing rock will be detrimental to residents' health. He gave department officials a map to show how many homes are in the area.
"Short-term exposure to fine dust can cause premature death in patients with lung and heart disease, and will trigger asthma and bronchitis," he said. "There is no safe level.
"... I do know the value of life, and it is precious," he said. "This is the right quarry in the wrong place."
The hearing continued past press time.
The department has 30 days to review comments before deciding whether to grant a permit to ISP.
Staff writer Leah Friedman can be reached at 932-2002 or firstname.lastname@example.org.