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East Rockhill filing appeal over court’s quarry ruling


East Rockhill officials are pressing forward with an appeal of a recent court ruling that represented another legal setback in the township’s battle against Rockhill Quarry.

Township Manager Marianne Morano confirmed the township is appealing a June order from Bucks County Judge Robert J. Mellon that said that the court – not East Rockhill’s Zoning Hearing Board – has the jurisdiction to rule whether or not an asphalt plant will be allowed to be built and operated at the quarry site on North Rockhill Road.

In July, the township’s Board of Supervisors voted to appeal the ruling. East Rockhill’s aim is to have the courts allow the asphalt plant issue to be decided by the local zoning board.

“The township has just filed an appeal on (Judge Mellon’s) order,” said Morano.

Quarry operator Richard E. Pierson Materials Corp. wants the plant so it can turn stone it mines onsite into asphalt, which will then be used as part of Pierson’s $224 million project with the Pennsylvania Turnpike Commission to widen the Northeast Extension.

Mellon’s order isn’t the only recent legal ruling to go against East Rockhill residents and township officials, which have opposed the quarry since Pierson started operations in December 2017 following what had been near – some would say total – dormancy of quarrying at the site since the early 1980s.

Back in March, U.S. District Judge Gerald Austin McHugh denied East Rockhill’s request for an injunction on the quarry’s activities.

Furthermore, McHugh barred the township and its supervisors from trying to enact various restrictions on quarry operations, essentially saying that state law supersedes local rules. The township also can’t require the quarry to obtain land development approval before installing new equipment or buildings related to the mining operation, McHugh ruled.

Still, McHugh remanded the asphalt plant question to the Bucks County Court of Common Pleas, which ultimately led to Mellon’s June 18 decision. The township is not appealing McHugh’s ruling, only Mellon’s order.

As of this writing, mining and related activities at the quarry remain under a cessation order from the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection. That order was issued in December after asbestos, a known carcinogen, was detected at the site.

DEP says its overseeing asbestos testing to ensure it’s being conducted properly, but a residents’ group opposed to the quarry has said that the testing is inadequate and a conflict-of-interest, as the work is being conducted by a company, Earthres Group of Pipersville, that has been contracted by the quarry. Hanson Aggregates Pennsylvania owns the quarry property. Pierson is leasing the site.

Residents fear quarrying will lead to air, water and noise pollution, while potentially damaging nearby natural habitat, depleting groundwater and degrading property values.