June 18, 2002
WHEN A DREAM QUIETLY IMPLODES
A Vermont publisher is horrified to learn his dream property sits near a mine
By Dave Rogers
Weeks after Steve Burzon moved into his rural home in southern Vermont in 1999, his new neighbour announced that he had recently sold his farm to a company called OMYA so it could mine white marble.
"He said, 'Don't worry, they won't be here for 100 years and you and I will be dead and buried by then'," Mr. Burzon said. "I didn't know what OMYA was and I went home to Texas.
"When I came back a week later, I heard that OMYA was talking about opening a mine the next spring and wanted a permit. I was mortified because my dream of living here quietly had imploded."
Mr. Burzon said he had no way of knowing OMYA wanted to mine the mountain above his property because there is no zoning in Vermont and the people who sold him the house didn't tell him that the company had purchased the neighbouring farm. The former publisher of Country Home and Traditional Home magazines had started a business designing ornamental gardens. He said an OMYA geologist told him he was lucky to have the company as his new neighbour.
"The man said once the company put in the mine, nobody else would buy nearby property and move in," Mr. Burzon said. "He said no one will want to live here. I asked him to buy my house and he said OMYA didn't do that. Then I told him to get out."
Mr. Burzon said the Vermont protests against OMYA began in early 2000 when he told Danby residents the company planned to open a 9-hectare quarry in the area much sooner than expected.
Vermonters For a Clean Environment, a lobby group that stopped a natural gas pipeline in the area, joined the residents in September 2000.
"When you mention OMYA, a panicked look crosses the faces of a large proportion of people who know about them," Mr. Burzon said.
"They say they have been dealing with them for years ... .
"In Middlebury, they were taking marble out of the ground and trucking it through residential neighbourhoods.
"They ended up building their own road."
Linda Poro, a resident of Florence, Vermont, about 80 kilometres north of Danby, lives near an OMYA quarry.
"The problem is they have ... a lot of blasting a lot of trucking and no consideration for the community," Ms. Poro said.
For spills, Ms. Poro said the company has holding tanks that accept the overflow and adds she was notified about one chemical spill.
Ms. Poro said her house shakes when the company blasts at the Florence quarry.
She said windows in her house have broken and part of her furnace collapsed after blasting.
"I had to replace my furnace because the firewall was totally gone," Ms. Poro said.
"They agreed to pay half for a new furnace.
"I have lived there for 23 years and it is my home, so I am not in a hurry to move out.
"They tell me that the chemicals they use are not harmful, but I have seen nothing to prove that."