CASTLE HAYNE, NC (WECT) - More than 100 people attended a community information session Wednesday night about a proposed sand mine in Castle Hayne, and the atmosphere turned testy as people voiced their complaints and concerns.
The company, Hilton Properties Limited Partnership, wants to build a 28-acre sand mining operation in the 4100 block of Castle Hayne Road. But if the room of people at Wednesday’s meeting had their way, the sand mine would not be built.
“I think we have some very serious concerns about the risks with contaminants, the property values, and the quality of life for the people that live in that neighborhood adjacent to this," said Kayne Darrell, a Caste Hayne resident.
Sand mining is the process where sand is dug up and hauled away for use in manufacturing or construction elsewhere.
The community information session is a requirement to apply for the permit to rezone the land from rural agriculture to industrial so Hilton Properties can build the sand mine.
Steve Coggins, who represents Hilton Properties, led the meeting and spoke primarily to answer audience questions. Representing the company, David Fort and Todd Woodard attended the meeting, but only spoke to the group when directly asked by members of the audience. David Trip, a sand mine operator, also spoke to answer a few questions.
The company submitted a very similar rezoning application back in 2014, but the planning board postponed the decision, citing a lack of information.
“I think they felt they could get away with it, and all they got was this community up in arms about it,” said Joy Finders, who has lived in the neighborhood by the proposed sand mine since 1980. “Water. Pure water is a big factor. It’s the main factor I believe.
Multiple people raised concerns about an adjacent General Electric (GE) site in Castle Hayne, where cleanup is still underway after chemicals polluted groundwater in the 1960′s and 1970′s.
“In the early 1990s, we determined that storage and disposal practices in the late 1960s and early 1970s impacted groundwater in two areas of the property,” said Jon Allen, Public Relations Manager for GE Hitachi Nuclear Energy. “An extensive groundwater monitoring network was established and corrective action plans were developed and approved by NCDEQ. One area, including a portion off of the GEH property, is subject to a monitored natural attenuation plan. In the other area, groundwater is contained on site through the use of pumping wells.”
N.C. Department of Environmental Quality records confirm there is an inactive hazardous waste site operated by GE adjacent at 3901 Castle Hayne Road next to the sand mine.
Many in the neighborhood use groundwater wells, and they worry sand mining up to 30 feet underground into the water table will cause contamination to their drinking water.
But Coggins said there is no reason to believe that groundwater wells are at risk of contamination.
“There is absolutely no evidence that there is a risk of contamination of any of the wells that live in the neighborhood approximately a mile and a half from the mining operation itself," said Coggins.
As evidence, the attorney pointed to required annual groundwater testing, a computer modeling study, and mining techniques that do not change the overall water level.
Residents are also concerned about noisy trucks, road damage, a decrease in property value, and harm to nature and wildlife.
“You’re going to destroy it, one way or another, with trucks, contamination, wiping out our wildlife," said Finders.
Trip, the sand mine operator, suggested that residents build a privacy fence to block out sound from trucks on a dirt road to the sand mine near the neighborhood.
“My back door is 155 from that dirt road," replied a resident. “I can hear a pickup truck going by. And you are telling me that a privacy fence is going to block out the sound of 20 dump trucks per hour?”
Trip replied that there’s not guarantee that there will be 20 dump trucks per hour, but there could be.
“I don’t want somebody saying they want to put a gun shooting range by me any more than this sand mine," said a resident.
Now that the community information session is complete, Coggins said the company will submit the rezoning application to the New Hanover County Planning Board, who will likely meet in January to vote.