Tuesday, July 16, 2024

Pender sand mine permit tabled amid concerns for nearby wells, runoff into Northeast Cape Fear

Specific concerns included potential stormwater runoff into the river and the mine's potential effect on nearby residential wells.

A major concern voiced by commissioners and residents is potential storm runoff to the nearby Northeast Cape Fear River. (Port City Daily photo/Courtesy Pender County)
A major concern voiced by commissioners and residents is potential storm runoff to the nearby Northeast Cape Fear River. The blue boundary outlines the future Brick Chimney Landing subdivision, if approved. (Port City Daily photo/Courtesy Pender County)

PENDER COUNTY — A developer’s attempt to receive a special use permit for the construction of a sand mine near Rocky Point, 500 feet from the Northeast Cape Fear River, was delayed after a split decision among county commissioners.

The decision came after several commissioners and residents voiced concerns of potential stormwater runoff into the river and the mine’s unknown effect on the underground water table and nearby residential wells.

Jeats Property is proposing the “borrowed pit sand mining” operation as a way to excavate and sell sand before the development of the 300-lot subdivision Brick Chimney Landing. The two mines, 24 acres total in size, would be used as amenity ponds for the future subdivision.

In March 2018, an amendment to the county’s ‘Unified Development Ordinance (UDO) allowed for borrowed pit sand mining in a Residential Performance district when submitted in conjunction with a master development community. Plans for Brick Chimney Landing were submitted to the county’s planning staff in January; approval is contingent on commissioners first allowing for the sand mine permit.

Addressing the concerns

Initial concerns were apparent Monday night when Commissioner Jackie Newton asked Senior Planner Pat O’Mahony if water wells were located in nearby properties.

“I would assume most residents along Shaw Highway have wells,” O’Mahony said. He later confirmed that 76 property owners live within 500 feet of the site’s boundary.

Much of the ensuing debate centered on an often tense discussion between Newton and engineer Howard Resnik, who assisted Jeat Properties in site plans for both the sand mine and subsequent subdivision.

“You have a river 500 feet to the west; you have property owners adjacent to this parcel 500 feet from the other side,” Newton said. “What assurances can you give these folks that this will not have a detrimental effect on the amount and quality of their water or drainage onto their property — or erosion from the mine site onto their property?”

“I can’t answer until I know what you’re talking about with ‘detrimental,'” Resnik said.

“I’m concerned about mud washing onto the neighbors,” Newton responded. “I’m concerned about neighbors who have footer valves on their wells that get clogged up with silted sediment with the water table dropping. I’m concerned about runoff into the river that may affect aquatic life. Those are the things that I’m concerned about.”

Resnik said the site was currently in the process of meeting requirements set by the N.C. Department of Environmental Quality — standards for sedimentation and erosion control including sediment fencing, silt traps, and sandbags — before any excavation begins.

‘We were living there first’

Resnik also said silt runoff would only affect shallow wells, those “somebody had dug and sunk without a permit,” because legal wells often go 200 feet deep and tap into aquifers beneath the water table.

“I have a well that’s 32 feet [deep]. That is a drinking water well. I did not put it down illegally,” Chairman George Brown responded, adding that a certified well installer stopped at that depth before digging into brackish water.

Resident Irving Canady said he had lived on Shaw Highway for 67 years; most of his neighbors have used water from wells that were first installed years ago, he said.

“And most times they were put down by hand. They are not deep wells,” Canady said. “My mother is 83 years old. If a well goes, she’s in no condition to [install] a deep well.”

Resnik argued that the groundwater is traveling in a westerly direction away from the residents’ properties, thereby minimizing the chance that muddy or contaminated water from excavation affects their wells.

Canady ended with a plea to the developers to remember the concerns of his family and his neighbors.

“They’re going to be finding dirt to sell, right? We’re not against anyone making money. I’m a firm believer that on personal property, you have the right to do what you want with your property,” Canady said. “But we were living there first — don’t treat us like we don’t exist.”

Ultimately, Newton and Fred McCoy opposed the mining permit while Brown and David Piepmeyer voted in favor of it. Newton said her opposition was based on Resnik’s inability to clarify the depth of the mines, their potential impact, or where the aquifers were in relation to the mines.

Brown suggested to Resnik and Jeats Property owner Trent Talbert to, in the future, bring an expert who could discuss in better detail the mine’s potential impact on wells and water tables.

Mark Darrough can be reached at Mark@Localvoicemedia.com

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