The Millington Quarry's plan for how 180 acres or so on Bernards' eastern border would be rehabilitated for future use after quarrying stops received a first look before the Planning Board on Tuesday night, prompting questions about proposed truck traffic and the origin of soil that would be brought in to lay the groundwork for a potential residential neighborhood.
"We want to distinguish this from a development plan," said Michael T. Lavigne, an attorney representing Millington Quarry Inc. "That would come later," he told the board and public.
The goals of the rehabilitative plan, required by law, would be to protect natural resources, such as water quality, to prevent erosion and to prepare the land for reuse after the life of the quarry is ended, according to Lavigne's testimony.
The quarrying operation off Stonehouse Road has slowed since Tilcon New York ceased its large-scale mining early in 2010. Tilcon reportedly leased the quarry from MQI starting in 1999 and until last year. Millington Quarry acquired the quarry in 1978, according to testimony last night.
Tom Carton, vice president of business development for MQI, said that if the Planning Board approves the quarry's plan is approved, subject to questioning by both the board and public, restoration could begin within a year.
But then, it could take up to three years to bring in thousands of truckloads of topsoil, as well as additional fill for areas where the state Department of Environmental Protection has ordered potential environmental concerns to be addressed, and also rock to line a future 50-acre lake, Carton said.
Questioned by Board Member Kevin Orr about the number of anticipated trucks, Carton estimated the breakdown would include 30,000 trucks each carrying 14 cubic yards of soil; another 7,800 truckloads of similar fill for the areas where the state might require environmental remediation; and an additional 18,000 loads of "rip-rap" rocks to complete the plan for lining a lake.
During rehabilation, (or reclamation) the entire property would be graded, stablized and, except for the lake, seeded, according to his testimony.
"We are looking for clean, tested soil to support vegetative growth," Carton testified.
Contaminants that a township consultant found in truckloads of fill being brought into the quarry in previous years — under the terms of an earlier reclamation plan approved by the board in 2008 — had sparked a lawsuit, complaints to the DEP and complaints by officials and neighbors that they feared what might be in the soil already at the quarry.
"How could the township be assured that the quality is better than was was brought in before?" Kristen Walsh, a neighbor of the quarry, asked Carton.
Carton said consultants for the quarry and the township already have discussed a "protocol" for bringing in materials. He said that night he does not know if testing standards already have been set.
Bert Fonde, vice-chairman of the Planning Board, then requested that Millington Quarry submit a proposal for how testing would be conducted, including specific information on what incoming soil would be tested for, and how it would be tested. "The amount of soils being brought in are still quite significant," he said.
Resident Bill Walsh said it is his understanding that the qualify of fill that is purchased is higher than that which contractors pay to bring in and dispose at a site. He asked Carton if the quarry will be paying for its fill, or getting paid to dispose of materials.
Carton disputed that the quality of fill is necessarily superior when it is not purchased. He gave the example of a company building a shopping center in a nearby town that might need to remove topsoil, and would need to find a place where it could be moved.
Carton added that acceptable fill is not always available for purchase in required volumes.
Upon further questioning, Carton said that other experts scheduled to testify at future meetings would have more specific information.
Carton's testimony was followed on Tuesday by a presentation by Jim Cosgrove, an environmental engineer.
Cosgrove outlined the planned expansion of an existing lake on the property to fill in a much larger area, about 50 acres, which would accept water runoff from other sloped areas on the quarry site and also offsite.
Cosgrove's presentation is scheduled to continue at a Planning Board meeting scheduled for 7:30 p.m. on Dec. 6.
Also on Tuesday, the Planning Board ruled that MQI's application is "complete" enough for a review.
And although she said she still believes she could review the application fairly, Board Member Carol Bianchi agreed to step down from reviewing the application after Lavigne said that her membership in Citizens for a Clean and Safe Millington Quarry could serve as grounds for appeal for the board's ruling.
Lavigne also said that the legal dispute with the township stemming from issues regarding the implementation and requirements in the 2008 reclamation plan have been put on hold until Jan. 17, 2012. He said the new plan could put those issues in order.