Residents of two South Estonian villages are banding together in their concerns over a planned sand and gravel quarry.
Not only will the quarry, they say, lead to a falling water table – and with it diminished drinking water supplies in a rural area where many people obtain their water from wells – but some critics have pointed to a potential conflict of interest, given the local municipal mayor also being the developer of the quarry.
The Environmental Board (Keskkonnaamet) said, however, that the mine should not affect the water level in residents' wells and ponds.
The two villages, Kasaritsa and Mõksi, lie due South of Võru city.
Tuuli Eksin, a resident of Mõksi, told AK that local residents are apprehensive about the issues the sand and gravel pit will bring, including those surrounding drinking water , noise and dust. "The surrounding area has some particularly beautiful nature and many protected species in and around Vardjamäe," Eksin said.
Meanwhile, Steven Viilo built a home in Kasaritsa two years ago.
His family has one school-aged child.
In addition to the drinking water matter, Viilo's most major concern is safety, he said. "We calculated that given the planned volume, somewhere around 17 full trucks will be departing per day. If these 17 trucks start driving back and forth here through the day, well this is obviously dangerous, for everyone," he said.
Aulis Saarnits, specialist at the Environment Board's (Keskonnaamet), said, however, that the quarrying depth applied for will not reach the water table, so wells and ponds will not be drained.
The Environmental Board adds that in any case, data is currently being collected on how to amend the permit to ensure the quarrying activity exerts as minimal a disturbance on the local populace as is possible.
Tormis Kall's (pictured) home lies 100 meters away from the under-construction quarry, meaning her current living environment will likely be replaced by a completely new one.
"My property borders the planned quarry along a 24- meter stretch, meaning 40 percent of my property will be surrounded by this noise barrier," she added.
About 30 farms comprising around 100 inhabitants are to be found in the villages of Kasaritsa and Mõski, around 9km from Võru city and in the direction of Haanja.
The prospect of a sand and gravel quarry separating the two villages and spreading over almost ten hectares has brought local residents together, and close to 500 signatures had been collected on a petition opposed to the development, at the time the AK report was filed.
This petition has also been submitted to the Environmental Board.
The landowner of the planned quarry site also happens to be the Mayor of Võru Rural Municipality, Kalmer Puusepp.
For his part, Puusepp says that every landowner has the right to manage their own property as they see fit, though the local opposition has come as no surprise to him.
Puusepp rejected any questions of a conflict of interest.
"I recused myself from this procedure, which concerns everything on the part of the municipal government [and the quarry itself], and have left the municipal government make a decision on that, so it's not my decision, and plus I don't want to comment on it either," he reasoned.
Puusepp had taken part in Wednesday's public consultation in his role as a sand and gravel quarry developer. No representative of the municipality was present.
Local residents also expressed a concern that since the permit to quarry, which was applied for by Puusepp's spouse, was approved prior to residents presenting their own counter-arguments, there was no obvious party protecting the interests of those residents.
Editor: Andrew Whyte
Source: AK, reporter Mirjam Mõttus.