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Proposed quarry rattles Sebago residents concerned about dust, noise, water quality

A group of neighbors wants the town planning board to put a moratorium in place on the project so it can revisit and rewrite ordinances.

SEBAGO, Maine — Sebago residents rallied Sunday afternoon to oppose a proposed quarry that they worry will bring noise, truck traffic, and issues of environmental quality to their town.

A group of about 60 neighbors of the quarry proposed by Gorham Sand and Gravel off Route 11 gathered Sunday at Sebago Elementary School to draw attention to the issue. 

Gorham Sand and Gravel went before the town's planning board in August to discuss an application for the quarry. The board reviewed the site plan in September and brought back updates based on neighbors' concerns in October

Those opposed to the project want the town to enact a moratorium that prohibits gravel extraction, quarrying, and mining so the board can revisit and rewrite town ordinances. The town's planning board will vote on that moratorium Tuesday at 6 p.m.

"To stop the quarry and other projects like this until such time as the town can correct such errors as we feel are in our ordinances and to make them a little bit stronger and perhaps prevent quarries from coming into a village zone," said Barry Jordan, the rally's organizer. "People just don't want it in the village. It's pretty cut and dry."

Jordan lives roughly 1,000 feet from the proposed quarry. His concerns, along with others, include truck traffic, dust, noise, lower property values, and impacts on water quality.

"They want to come in and survey our foundations to make sure they're not going to be cracked prior to the blasting and then come in after the blasting, so obviously they're concerned about damaging other people's homes in the area, or they wouldn't have to do any of that," claimed Jordan.

Also on Sunday, Gorham Sand and Gravel hosted a barbeque just up the street from the rally to address people's concerns in a less formal setting than a town planning board meeting.

"Really, we would relish the opportunity to sit and have a conversation with them," said Mark Curtis, vice president of GSG. "The public has every opportunity to bring those concerns forward, and it's our job to address those concerns, which I believe 100% is what we've done."

Curtis said GSG wants this specific area because that is where the raw material, the rock, is located. Much like oil companies drill in Texas, certain areas of Maine have excellent "aggregate."

That material gets used in all types of projects such as roads, bridges, and foundations.

"We can only go where the material is. The closer the material is, the less expensive it is to haul. The less expensive it is to haul, the lower the cost is," said Curtis.

Curtis said he is willing to speak and share information and documents with anyone who has concerns about this project.

Jordan simply wants the project somewhere else.

"Do we sit back idle and do nothing and hope that they don't issue a permit and that everything is done correctly and then it's too late, or do we be proactive up front, put the brakes on this project," said Jordan.

In a statement to NEWS CENTER Maine, a Portland Water District spokesperson wrote: 

"We do know about the project and have reviewed some initial plans as part of the application currently being reviewed by the town. At this point we have not seen any specific threats to Sebago Lake. We will continue to monitor the process and developments to assess impacts."

Colin Holme, executive director of Lakes Environmental Association, told NEWS CENTER Maine on Friday that he had not seen the plan and could not weigh in. Of the community's concerns, he said the onus is on residents to be proactive with their planning board to craft ordinances that reflect town values, but not after the fact.

"I feel the plight of the community, but you need to be fair to developers and landowners and you need to let them know the regulations ahead of time," Holme said.

GSG said Jordan and Sunday's protesters have not yet contacted him to discuss the project.

Curtis said the company had licensed noise consultant test their equipment, and that the Maine Department of Transportation said the added trips of its trucks on Routes 114 and 11 "are not considered significant by the DOT and does not require a full study," and that a licensed hydrogeologist reviewed the wells and groundwater in the area to examine any potential impact from the quarry. 

He added that the new equipment does not create much dust and that they will mitigate dust on dry days with water mist.

He said the company projects fewer than 20 blasts per year, which he said would take place between 11 a.m. and 3 p.m. on weekdays, in accordance with Department of Environmental Protection Standards.

Anyone with questions can contact him at markcurtis@gsgravel.com or 207-839-2442.