Several residents who live near the shuttered Whitney Quarry heard from Hanson Aggregates officials on Thursday regarding plans for a 115-acre quarry during a special informational meeting held by the Unity Township Supervisors.
Officials from Hanson Aggregates presented plans for the new “Whitney North” quarry to the Unity Township Planning Commission last week. Residents on Thursday were able to ask questions and learn more about the proposed underground limestone mining operation proposed at 394 Quarry Road, across from the former Whitney Quarry.
The plan is to quarry on three separate properties owned by Alfred Piper, the Municipal Authority of Westmoreland County (MAWC) and Laurel Run Property LCC.
Some residents voiced concern with potential damage to their homes caused by blasting.
Ron Kurpiel, the company’s vice president and general manager for western Pennsylvania, said residents may consult a third-party inspector to conduct a pre-blast survey provided free of charge by Hanson.
Jason Mignogna of Stars Hollow Road was worried about trucks hauling limestone material driving down Quarry Road at high speeds. Kurpiel said Hanson will report complaints to the truck companies involved with transporting their material.
Mignogna’s family moved in November 2018, so they were not in the area when the former Whitney Quarry — which closed in April 2015 — was in operation. He asked residents at Thursday’s meeting about the expected effects of blasting, and expressed concern that he raises animals on his property that might react to the blasts.
Dean Schober of Quarry Road said “you can feel the vibrations.” Added Kurpiel: “You’re going to feel it… but it depends how far away you are.”
John Zimmerman, who lives on Piper Gross Road near the Cook Township line, asked Hanson Officials if seismographic testing is available for residents to measure impacts from the blasts.
“We are going to offer to send a third-party company,” Kurpiel said. “...We don’t control the results that that machine gets… Our employees don’t touch that machine. We can’t do a short-charge (blast), because we would have a mess on our hands.”
Officials said they will put together a call list to inform residents when blasting will take place.
Hanson officials said the mine will operate in two shifts — one beginning at 5 or 6 a.m. running for 10 or 12 hours, and another shift to follow for 8-10 hours.
Migongna asked officials, with shifts taking place at nighttime, “Will there be a glow?”
Danell Zawaski, area environmental manager for Hanson, said the township’s ordinance requires that lighting face downward. “They are not like big stadium lights. They are directed lights,” she said.
Kurpiel said blasting — needed on the surface to develop the site — will occur during the first shift between the hours of 8 a.m. and noon, 12:30 and 4:30 p.m. and 5 and 9 p.m.
“When we are developing a portal face up area, we will be blasting 1 or 2 times a week,” Kurpiel said. “We put enough explosives to crack the rocks efficiently so we can excavate it out of there. Our underground blasts yield about 1,200 tons of material. Surface blasts are much, much larger.”
Limestone sales and shipping will take place from 5:30 a.m. to 4 p.m.
Officials noted that it’s uncommon for the plant to operate during cold winter months.
Large mining trucks, or “rock trucks,” will cross Quarry Road during and periodically after site development, Kurpiel said. After construction of the portal face-up area, the company noted that the rock trucks will largely remain to the north of Quarry Road.
“We will have very adequate lighting and warning of large construction vehicles approaching that intersection,” Kurpiel said on Thursday.
Customer trucks will use the existing entrance road for Whitney Quarry for loading and weighing.
“We expect that the volume of the materials and the amount of business with this operation will be what it was in 2015,” Kurpiel previously said, which was around 1 million tons per year.
Hanson officials told residents and supervisors that the operation is expected to create 50 direct jobs — including laborers, equipment operators, mechanics, office staff and supervisors.
Supervisor Mike O’Barto asked Kurpiel about the long-term effects of creating roughly 50 jobs will have on the area.
“The indirect benefits to jobs in the area is not to be underestimated,” Kurpiel said. “It’s not unheard of to have a place like this with 50 direct jobs that bring benefits of a couple hundred jobs by the additional economic influence that we put in the area.”
Kurpiel told residents and supervisors that there are no plans to reactivate the decommissioned Whitney underground mine, and that mined limestone will be extracted from the new Whitney North operation and conveyed underneath Quarry Road. He said processing will take place on the south side of Quarry Road at the former site.
“The primary crusher is installed on the (north) side of the road, and then we will convey primary crushed stone underneath the road (to the former Whitney Quarry site),” Kurpiel told the planning commission last week.
Hanson officials also noted that Quarry Road will not close during the construction phase.
“We will be rerouting a section of the road around the construction,” Kurpiel said. “It will take a few weeks to a month to install the culvert underneath (Quarry Road)... Our intention is not to close it down altogether.”
The planning commission has yet to vote on Hanson’s proposal, as not enough planning commission members were present for a quorum last week. Solicitor Gary Falatovich said supervisors will likely vote on the proposal in October.
The proposal also includes a 9,000 square-foot office building with parking and a holding tank for a septic system near the former Whitney Quarry site.
Construction is expected to begin as early as 2022-23, officials said.