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East Rockhill challenges asbestos testing plan


East Rockhill officials have challenged a plan for testing for asbestos at the controversial Rockhill Quarry.

They say the sampling measures detailed in the plan are inadequate for detecting the true presence and potential scope of the carcinogen – and therefore could put the health of local residents at risk.

Mining and related activities at the quarry on North Rockhill Road have been under cessation since Dec. 5 2018, when naturally occurring asbestos was discovered.

On April 17, the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection announced that Richard E. Pierson Materials Corp., the quarry operator, had permission to begin sampling for asbestos in accordance with a sampling plan given conditional state approval on April 3.

But in practice the plan, prepared by EarthRes Group Inc. of Pipersville, won’t do enough to identify the possible breadth of asbestos issues, according to a letter the East Rockhill Board of Supervisors sent to DEP.

Since testing will be conducted by professionals contracted by Pierson, the township sees a potential for bias that could affect results. As such, officials requested that a licensed DEP geologist be present during sampling.

Furthermore, planned rock coring and sampling locations are suspect, the township maintains. Rock coring locations, for instance, are limited to the southeastern corner of the site, but should be distributed throughout the entire area covered by Pierson’s mining permit, East Rockhill officials believe.

Proposed sampling of aggregate stockpiles and a boulder field appears insufficient, the letter states. Water sampling is proposed at four locations, but there are more than four water features at the site and all should be sampled, the township maintains. Officials raised other concerns related to sediment sampling, roadway dust emissions, wind erosion of aggregate storage piles, and more.

“Overall, the plan is inadequate to delineate the presence of asbestos at the quarry and ensure that mining activities…will be protective of human health and the environment,” wrote Township Engineer Steven Baluh in the letter.

As of press time, DEP had given the township’s letter to EarthRes to review and respond, said East Rockhill Township Manager Marianne Morano.

Owned by Hanson Aggregates Pennsylvania and leased by Pierson, Rockhill Quarry reopened to the shock of residents in December 2017 after being largely dormant since the early 1980s. Legal and zoning battles have ensued amid a host of concerns from residents, including fears of air and water pollution.

Pierson has worked the quarry in support of its $224 million contract to provide asphalt for about seven miles of the Turnpike Northeast Extension. East Rockhill Zoning Hearing Board meetings on the quarry are scheduled for Monday (April 29) and Tuesday (April 30) at 6 p.m. at the Bucks County Community College Upper Bucks Campus, Perkasie.

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