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Amerikohl seeks special exception for mining operation in Dunbar Township

| Thursday, Oct. 11, 2012, 1:27 a.m.

The hearing about a surface-mining operation in Dunbar Township was continued for a second time by the Fayette County Zoning Hearing Board.

David Maxwell, vice president of Amerikohl Mining Inc., testified on Wednesday about the company's revised surface-mining plan. The company was denied a special exception by the hearing board in 2009.

Maxwell said the site, about one mile from Camp Carmel Road, involves the removal of 60 acres of coal on a 150-acre piece of property. He said the closest residence is more than a mile from the site and that The Great Allegheny Passage is 1,250 feet from an erosion pond on the site.

He said trucking operations will take place from 6 a.m. to 4 p.m. Trucks would be covered with tarp and carry approximately 30 loads of coal per day. Trucks would be on the site for two years.

Maxwell said reclamation would be continuous to help control mine drainage and that he wants the site gated and locked. The project also include blasting.

He testified that blasting would be done twice a day, between 7 a.m. and 7 p.m. Mondays through Fridays. When the bike trail is at its busiest during the warmer months, blasting would not be done on Fridays, he said. No blasting materials would be stored on the site.

Shawn Gallagher, an attorney representing Amerikohl, had a sound expert testify in September on the subject of a noise-impact study on the site.

At the hearing on Wednesday, a vibration expert testified about the project.

Keith Pucalik, vibration consultant with Vibra-Tech and a licensed blaster, said he studied the blast plans for the site as well as the various studies done.

Pucalik testified he believes there will be more than a 50/50 chance that those on the bike trail won't hear the blast and if they do, the sound should not be startling.

He also testified that the vibration from the air blast from the site would be felt like a 1-to-2-second breeze if occurs, and he doesn't believe there will be any danger of fly rock resulting from blasting, because it rarely happens.

The greatest distance he ever heard of fly rock from a blast site was up to 1,500 feet, he said. The bike trail is 1,550 feet from the blast site.

Robert Ging Jr., the attorney representing Mountain Watershed Association, which opposes the operation, asked Pucalik if he ever dealt with a resident who received damage from an air blast.

Pucalik said he did respond to a resident who complained about damage to his window, but said he never found any damage caused by an air blast from mining,. He said air blasts can come from all kinds of different blasting.

Ed Payson, acting chairman of the hearing board, asked if the site will have an alarm to alert those around that blasting will be conducted.

Maxwell said there will be an alarm loud enough for those on the trail to hear. He also will post at the site entrance a blasting notice and schedule so that anyone walking along Camp Carmel Road would be aware.

Charles Lightfoot, a geotechnical engineer with Earthtech Inc., testified that the hillside on the mine site is structurally stable with no steep slopes and nothing unusual that would cause a landslide.

The hearing was continued. Ging, of the Mountain Watershed Association, will present witnesses.

Because the room in the Public Service Building was not available in a timely manner for Amerikohl, the company volunteered to pay for a meeting place and pay to advertise the continued meeting.

The next hearing will be at 10 a.m. Nov. 7 at Uniontown Holiday Inn, off Route 40.

Mark Hofmann is a staff writer with Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 724-626-3539 or mhofmann@tribweb.com.

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