Plans for a sand mine in the Castle Hayne area have been held off a month, if not longer, as the New Hanover County Planning Board wants more information on the proposed operation and its potential impacts.
At their meeting Thursday night, board members said they like the idea of a sand mine in the location proposed—a 63-acre site in the middle of a 4,000-acre woodland tract northwest of the GE Hitachi Nuclear Energy facility—but they said more details are needed before an approval could be granted, opting instead to continue the request over a 60-day period.
Representatives with GE said the company neither supports nor opposes the proposed operation, adding it is only concerned whether the mine would disrupt ongoing mitigation efforts in the area. County documents note that portions of the property and the adjacent GE property are subject to ongoing groundwater monitoring, due to impacts identified in the late 1990s “originating from material storage and disposal practices in the late 1960s and early 1970s.”
Planning board members said more info is needed to show the mine would not disrupt those efforts, asking specifically for the depths at which sand would be mined, the depths of the water table on the subject property, and readings from monitoring wells on the subject property and GE’s property that show which toxins have been monitored and progress made in the mitigation effort.
The board also asked Hilton Properties Ltd., the applicant represented by Todd Woodard of SiteTech Systems, to address concerns expressed in the evening’s public hearing about truck traffic accessing the site via a road that abuts the closest residential neighborhood, located a mile from the planned mine site.
Nine people spoke in opposition to the mine, expressing concerns about the number of trucks that would access the site, impacts to the water table and the environment, and the manner in which a required community meeting was held in December. One speaker questioned the time and location of that meeting, which he said was held at a building without an address.
“It was clearly the intent of the Hilton Properties owners not to meet with anyone,” the man told the board.
Other speakers said the truck traffic would negatively impact their quality of life. One woman said her property line is less than 25 feet from the road trucks would use, noting dust from trucks that already use the road for timber operations.
“We’re going to have noise problems; we’re going to have problems with property values going down. I’m totally against this,” one speaker said.
Hilton representatives said efforts would be made to minimize dust, including imposing a speed limit of 15 mph, which they said is lower than the limit is now. While a state mining permit acquired for the project allows for as many as 100 trucks an hour, Woodard said such traffic would be unrealistic. A consultant said peak traffic would be closer to 20 or 30 trucks in an hour.
Mark Hommes, of nearby Castle Hayne Farms, said he does not know how the mine would impact irrigation for his farm, which he said is dependent on the water table remaining at its current level.
“If you dig a hole, it’s going to fill up with water. What’s it going to do to the water table at my farm?” Hommes said. “How am I going to raise plants? It’s a big concern.”
Such questions are what board members asked Woodard to answer at a subsequent meeting, either next month’s or the regular meeting in April. Chairman Richard Collier said he’s not opposed to the mine, but he and other board members said more information is needed, including how the truck traffic concerns would be addressed.
“I’m all for a sand mine. To me, it’s in a reasonably good location,” Collier said, adding that he is more concerned about the contamination issue than dust from trucks. “I think you need some information on your own site to make us all understand mining your soil is okay.”
“And I would like to see those neighbors’ backyards addressed in some way,” Vice Chairman Daniel Hilla said. “I think it has to be addressed.”
Woodard said he would work with county planning staff to determine when the request would be brought back to the board.