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    Sunday, June 23, 2024

    Residents to oppose Ledyard quarry operation at former chemical plant

    Ledyard ― Dozens of residents who live near the former Dow Chemical plant on the Thames River are expected to attend a continued public hearing on a proposed rock quarry Thursday and say the project threatens their health, safety and quality of life.

    The Planning and Zoning Commission hearing is slated to begin at Ledyard Middle School at 6 p.m.

    The quarry at historic Mount Decatur requires a special permit that the group Citizens Alliance for Land Use said in a release would “adversely impact the quality of life” in the area, creating “noise, vibrations, and air pollution especially carcinogenic fugitive dust known to be produced by quarrying granite such as that found in Mount Decatur.” Fugitive dust, small particles emitted during the quarrying process, is known to cause respiratory problems, according to online sources.

    The special permit request to essentially flatten Mount Decatur, submitted by Gales Ferry Intermodal, was originally scheduled to be heard Nov. 16, but “so many opponents jammed the Town Council chambers that the date was postponed and the venue changed,” according to the Citizens Alliance release. GFI is owned by Cashman Dredging & Marine Contracting, a company based in Quincy, Mass.

    There are no specific plans for the 40-acre site after the blasting, according to residents, “although Cashman says it could build industrial buildings at some point in the future.”

    Rock blasted on site would be processed locally before being trucked or shipped to various construction projects.

    The neighborhood nearby includes a historic district, residential neighborhoods, a church day care, and the Thames River Estuary, Citizens Alliance said.

    “The Village of Gales Ferry is also concerned about the proposed increase in truck traffic along a steep portion of Route 12, and about destruction of the Mount Decatur historic site itself as a defining feature of the community,” the residents said in their release.

    Project proponents

    The Chamber of Commerce of Eastern Connecticut weighed in Wednesday in an op-ed in The Day on the side of Cashman.

    Tony Sheridan, president and chief executive of the chamber, said the 165-acre property near the river and train tracks has served as an intermodal facility for people and freight since 1849, but with Dow Chemical’s closure the site had sat empty until Cashman bought it in May 2022.

    “The region has lost significant taxable revenue as manufacturing buildings were demolished and this large industrially zoned property was left mostly vacant and with environmental use restrictions limiting previously developed acreage from redevelopment,” Sheridan said.

    Now Cashman has started a big investment at the site, Sheridan said, including the planned reconstruction of an 800-foot, deep-water pier that will be used for such heavy-load needs as the staging of offshore wind projects. Sheridan cited $4 million in investments at the site completed so far.

    “We’re proud to have Cashman/Gales Ferry Intermodal as a new (2022) member of the chamber and a partner in promoting marine commerce and supporting the staging of renewable energy projects from their revitalized Ledyard facility,” Sheridan said. "The work Cashman’s team is looking to undertake will attract renewable energy, industrial and marine oriented businesses to the region and in turn, help to bolster the tax base in Ledyard and the economy here in Eastern Connecticut.“

    According to neighbors’ historical research on Mount Decatur, the hill overlooking the Thames River got its name after Naval commander Stephen Decatur, trying to save a substantial portion of the U.S. Navy at the time from a British blockade, decided to build a fort and observation point there during the War of 1812. Previously, it had been called Dragon Hill.

    “Ledyard Planning & Zoning is including on their agenda the opportunity for the residents of Gales Ferry to express their concerns and point out the ways that this proposal doesn't meet with the P & Z regulations or the Conservation Development Committee regulations, and how this will affect our lives and homes,” said Ledyard resident Liz Smith, who lives on the south end of Mount Decatur, in an email.

    For those unable to attend in person, a Zoom site has been set up at https://us06web.zoom.us/j/83255176604?pwd=qCYAfLfu27vTg4gxl9rfk12NzsQQDL.1.

    l.howard@theday.com

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