Shale Mine Slated for North Mountain in Gerrardstown
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by Wendy Hudock and Paul Wilson |
Historic Gerrardstown finds the state's "open for business" agenda includes your residential backyard!
On Thursday, January 3, 2008, Continental Brick Company, currently located in Martinsburg, purchased over 400 acres of land in Gerrardstown for the sum of $2.6 million dollars. The purchased land extends from Destiny Drive off of Dominion Road to the top of North Mountain and stretches along the back of the Gerrardstown Presbyterian Cemetery and directly adjacent to the historic property Prospect Hill.
Although Continental Brick has yet to formally declare their intentions in regards to the land, preliminary tests done by the company have indicated their desire to remove shale from the purchased land including North Mountain, in order to manufacture bricks. A manufacturing plant could be built to process and produce these bricks and then tractortrailers would haul the bricks to Interstate 81, traveling along small winding roads.
Environmental Significance : Numerous natural streams trickle down from this area of North Mountain and feed into Mill Creek, which is considered to be a part of the Chesapeake Bay Watershed. Disrupted stream flow could affect local well water quantities and cause water shortages and possibly cause wells to dry up in Gerrardstown and Inwood. Effects could be realized the other side of the mountain in developments such as Glenwood Forest and Round Top.
Health Issues : Extracting shale from the mountain removes the ground layer of topsoil, which may cause severe flooding. Mining pollutants and dust could be blown by high winds over cars and neighborhoods and then breathed into our lungs. Seepage of pollutants into the surrounding soil may cause problems in local water systems. Hydrogen fluoride and sulfur dioxide can be byproducts of the baking process that converts shale into brick, and is known to be corrosive enough to peel the finish off of automobiles and cause eye and respiratory problems. In larger exposures, hydrogen fluoride can cause swelling of the lungs.
Historical Significance: Gerrardstown is listed in the National Register of Historical Places. The town was established as a municipality in 1787 by Baptist minister, John Gerrard: the first Baptist minister this side of the Blue Ridge Mountains. Gerrardstown is one of the last undisturbed historical townships in the entire state of West Virginia. The Gerrard House, built by one of John Gerrard’s congregants is one of the oldest homes in the state. The Gerrardstown Presbyterian Cemetery houses the gravesite of former President Abraham Lincoln’s former bodyguard, law partner and good friend, Ward Hill Limon.
Prospect Hill, a former plantation built in 1795 by Mr. William Wilson contains the site of an old cabin owned by the Kelly family who were massacred in 1753 by a group of Indians during the French and Indian War.
Numerous other centuries old homes border the streets of Gerrardstown, which is listed on the George Washington Historical Trail.
Economic Impact : The introduction of a local quarry and manufacturing plant into the Gerrardstown community will ultimately lower property values and degrade the aesthetic beauty of the historical and natural environment.
The placement of a heavy industrial facility inside the residential limits of the small historic town of Gerrardstown presents the community with a number of environmental, historical and economic concerns. For example, in Hedgesville, a shale quarry was turned into a landfill after the shale was removed.
PLEASE JOIN US for a meeting on Monday March 10 @ 6:30 PM at the United Methodist Church on Rt 51 West (Gerrardstown Road). The Church is almost directly across the street from the corner grocery store and is the ONLY church on Rt 51 West.