Someday, when all quarrying operations have completely stopped and the 180-acre Millington Quarry becomes property that can be redeveloped for another use, the centerpiece for the "rehabilitated" land may be a 50-acre lake, about 50 feet deep, that potentially could be open for swimming and boating.
"I have a fair degree of confidence that we are going to have a real treasure here when this is complete," said Jim Cosgrove, an environmental engineer testifying before the Township Planning Board on behalf of Millington Quarry Inc.'s proposed rehabilitation, or land reclamation plan, for how the quarry would be regraded and restored once is closed for good.
Tuesday night's hearing was the second session devoted to the plan, which is required by law and could resolve a lingering lawsuit between the township and Millington Quarry. The next Planning Board session on the quarry's proposal is scheduled for 7:30 p.m. on Dec. 20, and officials said the matter is sure to continue into 2012.
If the Planning Board and MQI agree upon a mutually acceptable plan for the future of the quarry property off Stonehouse Road, the proposal will go before the Township Committee for final approval.
The last approved rehabilitation plan, which legally is supposed to be updated every three years, dates back to 2005. The Township Committee and quarry representatives never were able to agree upon final conditions in a proposed 2008 plan, officials said.
If the township approves the quarry's plan, subject to questioning by both officials and public, restoration could begin within a year, Tom Carton, vice president of business development for MQI,
The lake is just one part of the plan, and a subject that on Tuesday faced detailed questions from the Planning Board, its experts and the public. The questions ranged from how water quality would be controlled in a body of water with no inlet or outlet, to the ability to control the lake's depth, particularly following a storm.
"It's a critical point how you would maintain a relatively stable lake elevation," said Mayor John Malay, who also sits on the Planning Board.
Cosgrove had testified that geology would maintain a stable lake elevation once development of the body of water is completed, which would have a gradually deepening ledge placed along one section, and a cliff wall along another area.
He said that even if an extremely heavy rainfall, as during a hurricane, might result in an increased water level of about three feet, that elevation will drain away. He said the Passaic River is nearby at a similar elevation.
Even after the quarry closes, and land rehabilitation begins, the transformation of an existing four-acre pond on the property into a 50-acre lake would take about eight years, Cosgrove testified. As water flows downward into the proposed lake — that would be lined with rock rip-rap — the elevation would gradually rise and the perimeter would grow in size, he said.
The plan includes regrading to create a meadow, with a gradual slope downward of one foot for every 10 feet of distance, that initially would be planted with grasses, Cosgrove said. Eventually, the quarry owner's plan calls for the planting of trees and shrubs in certain areas of the property.
"It's a net positive from what you have now," Cosgrove said. He said he anticipates the lake would at least be as high in quality as the lake already on site at the Bernardsville quarry, which he said has industrial properties nearby and denser development than would ever be near the proposed lake for the Millington Quarry.
However, some questioners, including Valley Road resident Kristen Walsh, asked how contaminants identified in soil already brought into the quarry to fill in steeply quarried areas will be prevented from seeping into the lake water.
Cosgrove said that issue would be addressed by a future witness who would discuss the quarry's plan.
Walsh's husband, Bill, later said he is concerned that the overall plan for the quarry's rehabilitation is a reason for the quarry to make money by allowing soil from all areas to be brought in and dumped at the facility.
Witnesses for the quarry testified in November that the topsoil to come into the property in the future will be tested, and that there is no difference in the quality of soil purchased for that purpose, or from soil brought in for disposal from another development site. At the beginning of Tuesday's meeting, Michael Lavigne, an attorney for MQI, said that documents being submitted that night included a copy of the quarry's proposed soil importation plan to restore the quarried areas of the property.
Bill Walsh and others continued to ask about the number of large trucks that would be heading to the site to carry out the rehabilitation plan, as proposed.
Carton said last month 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 the future lake.
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 line the lake.
Responding to a question, Cosgrove said that the reason for the rock lining on the lake is to stabilize the bottom on an area of the property that now is covered with unstabilized soil.