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Home » Issue Areas » Lehigh and Quarrying » Newspaper Articles » 2006

Posted: Sunday, February 26, 2006 12:00 am

By Carrie Ann Knauer, Times Staff Writer

NEW WINDSOR - On an aerial map, the 800-plus acres between Md. 31 and Old New Windsor Road show neat rectangles of agricultural land lined and separated by trees, like many other agricultural landscapes in rural Carroll County.

For 50 years, the land has sat, rented to local farmers, waiting for the day when its owners would tear into it, extracting the precious limestone that runs rich below the earth's surface.

That day may come this week.

Stage is set

Contractors for Lehigh Cement Co. have received the official permit and are prepared to start excavating the New Windsor quarry this week, said Peter Lukas, manager of the Lehigh Cement Co. plant in Union Bridge.

After more than a year of permit application review, the Maryland Department of Environment notified Lehigh's contractor, Lopke Quarries Inc., based in Apalachin, N.Y., in mid-January that it received its air pollution permits and approval to build a 400-ton-per-hour stone-crushing plant.

Lukas said about 400,000 cubic yards of dirt must be moved to reveal the limestone deposits, which sit 4 to 15 feet below the earth's surface.

The dirt will be taken to the western side of the property, Lukas said, then planted over with grass and trees.

The property also will have three sediment control ponds to prevent the soil from eroding and getting into stream water.

Excavation will take two to three months, he said.

"It's a little bit difficult and time-consuming," Lukas said.

Limestone and its uses

Low levels of mining work over the past 10 years have exposed large chunks of limestone. Some are chalk white - the purest limestone in the area. It will be crushed and sent to the Lehigh plant in York, Pa.

Other parts are brown and gray, showing the iron and clay that has been worked into the limestone.

The York facility is much smaller than the Union Bridge plant, Lukas said, producing 150,000 tons of cement per year as opposed to the 1.75 million tons produced in Union Bridge last year.

Because of its limited production capability, the York plant is looking to produce a more specialized product - white cement, Lukas said, which is used more artistically in architectural design.

The Union Bridge plant will receive the rest of the non-white limestone to supplement the stone mined at the Union Bridge quarry.

The Union Bridge quarry has been in use since 1928 and reaches a depth of 350 feet. Lukas said the Union Bridge quarry has about eight more years of use left in it, and then Lehigh will rely completely on the New Windsor quarry.

Opposition to traffic

During the permit review process, New Windsor area residents voiced concern over increased truck traffic likely to accompany the new quarrying operation.

However, Lukas said Lehigh does not want to truck the mined stone. Lehigh is expected to extend a rail spur from the quarry property to the Maryland Midland Railway line near the intersection of Md. 31 and Old New Windsor Road.

Environmentalists have said they oppose the exhaust from the train and would not like to see train usage increased, Lukas said, so the company also is considering a conveyor belt operation.

Lukas said it would probably take four years to get the permits for a rail spur and the rails in place. In the meantime, most of the crushed rock would be stockpiled at the New Windsor quarry.

Future in mining

Lehigh estimates it will take another four to six years before Lopke Quarries can mine the 3.5 million tons of limestone per year the cement plant would need to produce Lehigh's goal of 2.5 million tons of cement.

Once the quarry is ready for full-scale mining, Lehigh will build a larger stone crusher that will handle 2,500 tons per hour in a building at the bottom of the pit, Lukas said.

"Whatever we do, we have to stick to the rules," Lukas said. "It's very regulated by the state."

Lukas expects the New Windsor quarry to provide enough limestone to meet the Union Bridge plant's needs for 100 years, Lukas said.

While the mining permit covers only the central portion of the land between Md. 31 and Old New Windsor Road, a contractor is exploring the southeastern portion of the property near Md. 31 to see what limestone deposits may be underground there.

Lukas said Lehigh plans to start at the southern side of the property and slowly work its way toward New Windsor.

Reach staff writer Carrie Ann Knauer at 410-857-7874 or


1955 - Lehigh Cement Co. started purchasing land between Md. 31 and Old New Windsor Road.

1988 - Lehigh Cement Co. received a surface mining permit for 186 acres within the New Windsor quarry, which included plans for berms, stockpiles and a quarry.

1991 - Maryland adopted a law that requires quarry owners, such as Lehigh Cement Co., to establish a "zone of influence" around the mining pit. The company is then responsible for any damage to neighboring properties within the zone. The New Windsor quarry has about 15 to 20 houses along Old New Windsor Road in its zone.

1995 - Lehigh Cement Co. started mining about 25,000 tons of rock from the New Windsor quarry during a few weeks each year.

Fall 2004 - Lopke Quarries Inc. applied for a permit from the Maryland Department of the Environment for a proposed operation to increase mining at the New Windsor quarry and build a portable rock crusher with a 400 ton-per-hour crushing capacity.

December 2004 - New Windsor and Union Bridge area residents organized opposition to the project, raising concerns about dust and traffic to the MDE and the Carroll County Environmental Advisory Office.

July 2005 - Maryland's Mediation and Conflict Resolution Office began working with environmental activists, town officials and Lehigh Cement Co. representatives to resolve the dispute.

November 2005 - The MDE tentatively approved the permit for the rock crusher at a public meeting in Union Bridge.

January 2006 - Lopke Quarries Inc. received its official permit and permission to begin work in New Windsor.