Norfolk Southern dumps load of dirt, rocks to stop work at raceway

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, December 2, 2009

By Jessie Burchette and Steve Huffman
Salisbury Post
Norfolk Southern has at least temporarily halted work at High Rock Raceway in Spencer.
Norfolk Southern has dumped truckloads of dirt and rock on the railway right of way adjacent to U.S. 29, blocking the only access to the nearly 100 acre racetrack site.
“The site is landlocked,” said Lloyd Pace, county enforcement officer. “Work has come to a standstill.”
Pace discovered the piles of debris with no trespassing signs from Norfolk Southern when he and N.C. Department of Environment and Natural Resources officials went by the site Thursday to check on ongoing erosion control, sludge removal and stream restoration efforts.
Racetrack officials say they have access to the site off Hackett Street through the Hedrick-Lambe property.
But the owners of that property said Monday they have not granted access. Jack Fisher said Dave Risdon, chief operating officer of High Rock Raceway, has had the 109 acre tract under option for nine months.
Fisher said Risdon is also negotiating for a temporary right of way pending the closing on the property which is scheduled for May 20. “At this point there is no right of way.” said Fisher.
Risdon said Monday that it’s a good thing that Norfolk Southern has blocked a crossing to the proposed track.
“It’s actually a pretty dangerous place to cross,” Risdon said.
Risdon said representatives of Norfolk Southern contacted him concerning the track on a number of occasions, once when a construction vehicle crossing the track resulted in an Amtrak train stopping at the site.
Norfolk Southern representatives told Risdon, “There’s issues with this crossing,” he said. He said they told him they wanted to close the crossing temporarily.
“We don’t care if they close it permanently,” Risdon said. “It’s not safe.”
He said he and other workers have continued to access the property via a dirt road south of the racetrack property. Risdon said the land belongs to heirs of the Hedrick-Lambe estate.
Risdon said the fact that Norfolk Southern blocked the crossing didn’t come as a surprise to the track’s owners.
“It’s something we’d been expecting,” he said. “My thought was, if they hadn’t said something to us, we’d have said something to them.”
Risdon said he worried that if someone was injured while crossing the track, the speedway owners would be held responsible.
County and state officials said Monday that all work on the site has come to a standstill.
The Department of Environment and Natural Resources has given Risdon 90 days to complete stream restoration and plantings of several hundred feet of stream that flows into the Yadkin River.
Rob Krebs, supervisor of the water protection section of the state agency, notified Risdon that wetlands restoration must be completed by July 15.
The agency has been monitoring the site for nearly two years after sludge was spilled from holding ponds on the former N.C. Finishing Co. site. In an effort to clean up the sludge, workers damaged several hundred feet of stream banks and also graded several acres of the site without required state and county permits.
Ellen Huffman, site inspector for the agency’s Aquifer Protection Division, said Tuesday that all of the sludge has been removed from the stream and ponds. “Everything is safe and secured … on site,” said Huffman.
But she said that the sludge can’t be moved off the property until the agency has received required documentation and notification. She estimated that as much as 13,000 cubic yards of sludge will have to be taken to a state-approved landfill.
Contact Jessie Burchette at 704-797-4254 or or Steve Huffman at 704-797-4222 or