Concern over a quarry’s potential to cause air pollution, water pollution, intrusive noise, dangerous truck traffic, diminished property values and more compelled a crowd of East Rockhill residents to pack the Board of Supervisors meeting Sept. 25.
Supervisors told residents that the day before, they met with Rockhill Quarry’s operators, Richard E. Pierson Materials Corp., for a settlement hearing in federal district court related to ongoing litigation tied to the quarry. No settlement was reached, supervisors said.
“We’re in a battle,” said Supervisor Dave Nyman. “We’re fighting the battle.”
While a settlement could potentially be reached in the future, some residents were encouraged that supervisors had not struck a deal regarding the quarry and its potential asphalt plant at the site on North Rockhill Road.
“I want to encourage you to keep fighting, keep punching, for the residents of the township,” said Ryan Gottshall, an East Rockhill resident who lives near the quarry.
Supervisors also asked residents if a select number of those affected by the quarry would be open to meeting with Richard Pierson, head of the company that bears his name, to discuss their concerns about the quarry. Supervisors said Pierson was entertaining the idea of such a meeting, which officials said could potentially serve as a forum for having residents’ concerns directly addressed.
Some were open to the meeting, but others viewed it as little more than a waste of time, believing the quarry is intent on operating as it sees fit, which they believe will be to the extreme detriment of residents.
“This man has operated in such bad faith … I want him out of town,” said resident Jim Pascale, adding the only resolution he’d be happy with was for the quarry to shut up shop – a sentiment held by others present too. “There are people in this room whose lives are going to be ruined,” Pascale added.
The supervisors’ meeting came a few days after a Sept. 20 hearing conducted by the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection at Pennridge High School.
The focus of the hearing, which also drew a crowd, was the quarry’s proposed rock crusher that could grind up to 1,000 tons of stone an hour, an operation that could generate 116 tons of dust – “particulate matter” – per year. Pierson has said a wet suppression spray system would reduce the polluting particles to 7.7 tons annually.
Pierson needs a permit to operate the crusher, which would feed an asphalt plant the quarry operator already has a permit to build. A DEP decision on the rock crusher was expected after the public comment period closed on Sept. 30.
Rockhill Quarry has been at the center of controversy since December when operations resumed there after being largely dormant since the early 1980s. Site owner Hanson Aggregates Pennsylvania holds that at least 500 tons of stone were removed annually from the site, but residents dispute the claim.
Richard E. Pierson Materials Corp. is working the site in support of its $224 million contract to provide asphalt for about seven miles of the Northeast Extension.
The quarry has been the subject of East Rockhill Zoning Hearing board meetings for months. The hearings have focused on Pierson and Hanson Aggregates Pennsylvania’s appeal of a township zoning officer decision that found that special exception approval from the zoning hearing board is needed to operate the quarry.
Pierson also wants the green light to operate an asphalt plant at the site.
In addition, East Rockhill has been seeking an injunction in federal district court that would effectively prevent Pierson and Hanson from building or operating an asphalt plant at the site until gaining approval and permits to do so from the township.
The injunction request also asks a judge to rule that the quarry be prevented from making any more land development improvements until it receives approval from East Rockhill. The quarry has filed counterclaims.