Union Township sues Tomko over mining issue

September 11, 2013

Union Township officials are suing W.G. Tomko Inc. over rock mining done at its facility near Finleyville Airport and demanding the company immediately stop after receiving noise and dust complaints from nearby residents.

The township filed its lawsuit in Washington County Court on Tuesday against Tomko and Missionary Partners claiming they are using an expired grading permit and performing mining work and “rock crushing” that is not allowed in that area.

“The noise and dust problems are affecting a residential area down there,” Union Township Supervisor Larry Spahr said. “Some of the residents have issued numerous complaints about the township bringing that under control or bringing the operations within the framework of the zoning ordinance and grading ordinance.”

The lawsuit claims Tomko received a grading permit in May 2008 to build a 9,900-square-foot addition to its facility located just off Route 88 just south of Finleyville.

Four years later, the township began receiving complaints from nearby residents of “excessive noise and dust emanating” from the location despite notifying the company it needed conditional approval to conduction mining operations, according to the lawsuit. Township officials asked the company to immediately stop the mining and modify operations to reduce noise, court documents show.

“Tomko is not merely crushing rock,” the lawsuit alleges. “Tomko is mining. Tomko was not issued any permit to crush rock by the Township.”

The company applied for and received a “large non-coal mining operator’s license” in December 2012, but township officials said mining is still not permitted in the commercially zoned district.

Spahr said the township has attempted to contact Tomko about the situation and been met with resistance each time. Tomko Chief Executive Officer and President Bill Tomko III did not return a phone call seeking comment on the lawsuit.

“There have been numerous conversations, so we’re trying work out an equitable solution to have the ordinance properly enforced,” Spahr said. “We’ve been trying to get compliance to no avail.”

The lawsuit points to letter sent to Tomko on June 20 about the situation and a notice of violation that dates to Aug. 13 that have achieved no changes to the situation.

The lawsuit asks for the company to immediately stop grading, using heavy machinery and mining. It also demands Tomko request and receive the necessary permits in the future.

Mike Jones has been a news reporter since 2005, covering crime, state and municipal government, education and energy. In addition to working at the Observer-Reporter, he also has spent time at the Charleston (W.Va.) Daily Mail and Patch.com. He holds a journalism degree from West Virginia University.

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