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 Post subject: Morris utility's water plan concerns Mine Hill officials
PostPosted: Wed Nov 21, 2007 3:18 am 
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Location: Above the Sterling Hill Mine
Morris utility's water plan concerns Mine Hill officials

Council wants more information on the safety of underground storage

Friday, November 16, 2007

MINE HILL -- The township council has some concerns about a Morris County Municipal Utilities Authority proposal to store up to 1.3 billion gallons of water in the abandoned Scrub Oaks mine under the township.

At a Thursday night council meeting, council President Marc Sovelove said he was disappointed that the council has not been involved in the development of the proposal, which gained traction last week with the release of a consultant's report that endorsed the plan.

"They have not chosen to involve us in the process," Sovelove said.

Press for input

Nevertheless, Sovelove also said, the council would press for greater input into the proposed project and for more access to documents related to the proposal.

"We would like to be much more involved," said Sovelove. He added that the council is "entitled to much more than we have gotten" in terms of documentation.

"There are so many questions unanswered," said Sovelove. "We have to protect the citizens."

Sovelove said he had "tremendous concerns about the plan," particularly about the potential impact that the storage of "by all accounts a massive amount of water" would have on the integrity of the ground underneath the homes above the mine.

Sovelove expressed disappointment that the MUA had not provided the council with a copy of the consultant's report. As a result, he said, the council is not convinced that the computer models used in preparing the report are accurate in their projections that storage of 1.3 billion gallons of water in the mine would not present a safety issue.

"I don't believe they know the implications of what may happen," he said.

Plan overview

Under the proposal, overflow from the Rockaway and Musconetcong Rivers and Lake Hopatcong, as well as water from the county's well systems, could be pumped into the Scrub Oaks mine to be stored as a backup to be tapped during droughts and periods of peak usage.

The report, which was commissioned by the MUA and prepared by the engineering firm of Hatch Mott MacDonald, said the mine was structurally sound enough to hold up to 1.3 billion gallons of water. It also found that the mine was free of pollutants that could contaminate the water.

The Scrub Oaks mine operated from 1856 to 1966, with the heaviest mining activity in the 1940s and 1950s. More than 12 million tons of ore were removed, leaving eight levels of voids between 200 to 250 feet in height and an average 25 feet wide. The voids now are partially filled with water and would be filled with up to 1.3 billion gallons of water if the MUA plans comes to fruition.

Although the plan would require state approval, it apparently would not require any approvals from Mine Hill because the mine is owned by the MUA, a county agency.

Underground shafts leading to and from the mine run for nearly a mile from the center of Wharton to Route 46 in Mine Hill, making Scrub Oaks one of the largest mines in the state.

Michael Scholl can be reached at (973) 428-6644 or

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