Rockhill Quarry, which is at the center of controversy in the township, are poised to square off in federal court.
The township and Richard E. Pierson Materials Corp. are scheduled to appear before U.S. District Judge Gerald Austin McHugh in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia on Feb. 13.
A hearing had been scheduled for late January, but was delayed because the judge had another case that took precedent.
The trial could focus on East Rochill’s assertion that the quarry had essentially been inactive for decades, thereby requiring Pierson to obtain special exception approval from the township’s zoning hearing board to conduct activities. With special exception hearings before the zoning board ongoing, the township wants the judge to impose an injunction on the quarry.
Last year, the municipality sued Pierson and Hanson Aggregates Pennsylvania, the site owner from which Pierson is leasing, to obtain the injunction. The quarry operators met the challenge with a suit of their own that asks for the injunction to be dismissed and for the township and the elected members of its board of supervisors to pay monetary damages.
Pierson and Hanson maintain that they’ve met regulations to have kept a quarrying permit active and that quarrying operations are the purview of the state Department of Environmental Protection, not local municipalities.
At a recent town hall-style meeting, Congressman Brian Fitzpatrick and state Sen. Steve Santarsiero said they had doubts that 500 tons of stone were removed annually from the quarry between the time operations went largely dormant in the early 1980s and when Pierson resumed them at scale in December 2017.
To keep the quarry permit active, at least 500 tons had to be removed from the site each year. Failure to meet the requirement would mean Hanson and/or Pierson would have to apply for a new permit, officials say.
With the court battle looming, the township and Pierson have continued to slug it out in local zoning hearing board meetings.
At a Jan. 30 hearing, Pierson’s engineer entered an exhibit that indicated that a previous rezoning of the quarry by East Rockhill reduced the acreage that could be mined from 157 down to just under 136. The change came as township officials designated more land on the property into resource protection zoning.
Because of that, about six acres being used as part of quarrying operations lie in the resource protection zone, which does not allow for such activity. The engineer’s exhibit said activities on the six acres are limited to having stored stock piles, an internal driveway to access Quarry Road and an internal spur to access a railroad.
In another development, East Rockhill officials posted a notice on the township website on Friday (Feb. 1) that indicated that the board of supervisors plans to consider adopting an ordinance that would prohibit vehicles from using brake retarders along North Rockhill Road between Muskrat Road and Quarry Road.
Rockhill Quarry is on North Rockhill Road, and professionals for Pierson have testified that the quarry could generate up to 358 truck trips per day.
Supervisors plan to hold a public hearing on the proposed ordinance at their 7 p.m. meeting on Feb. 26 at 1622 Ridge Road, Perkasie.
Pierson has worked the quarry in support of its $224 million contract to provide asphalt for about seven miles of the Turnpike Northeast Extension. In December, a stay on mining operations went into effect after asbestos was reportedly found at the site.
DEP is said to be reviewing the situation.
East Rockhill residents are worried that the quarry will cause everything from air pollution, groundwater degradation, and well water depletion, to dangerous truck traffic, intrusive noise, diminished property values and more.