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Quarry meeting draws Saturday crowd in East Rockhill

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Katie Zackon says trucks from Rockhill Quarry have run her off the narrow country roads by her East Rockhill home, which is near the industrial operation.

What’s as concerning for the mother of young children is that the quarry could be generating air pollution – think asbestos – and groundwater contamination through its blasting and mining. All, she says, are threats to her family.

“It’s our health, our well-being and our livelihood,” said Zackon.

More than 100 other locals who share Zackon’s concerns about Rockhill Quarry packed a town hall-style meeting Saturday morning at Bucks County Community College’s Upper Bucks Campus for an update on the quarry situation from Congressman Brian Fitzpatrick, state Sen. Steve Santarsiero and state Rep. Craig Staats.

The legislators, particularly Fitzpatrick and Santarsiero, hammered home that they have doubts that quarry owner Hanson Aggregates Pennsylvania removed 500 tons of stone annually from the site on North Rockhill Road between the time operations went largely dormant in the early 1980s and when they resumed at scale in December 2017.

To keep the quarry permit active, at least 500 tons had to be removed from the site each year.

“There are serious questions about the creditability of the records that the requirement” was met, Santarsiero said.

Failure to meet the requirement would mean Hanson and/or the contractor currently working the site, Richard E. Pierson Materials Corp., would have to apply for a new permit.

To receive the permit, the quarry would have to meet more rigorous modern standards, rather than dated regulations under which it would be grandfathered into operating under via the old permit.

Meeting the standards could potentially require significant capital outlay for improvements that could possibly prevent the quarry from operating for an extended period of time.

Some residents lambasted the quarry owners for doing what they characterized as gaming the system.

“Avoiding the cost of a new permit and remediation has put every resident here at risk,” said Jim Pascale, an East Rockhill resident.

Legislators said that uncannily similar weights for tonnage removed in different years raise questions about the amounts hauleds.

There are also questions about where quarry operators would have pulled loads from, given the apparent dearth of mining operations.

Gaps in records are another concern.Santarsiero said that documentation indicats that, in 1986, only 180 tons were removed and yet somehow state environmental officials deemed the tonnage requirement to have been fulfilled.

“Regulators can get too close to the regulated,” said Fitzpatrick.

In a recent meeting with legislators, the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection maintained that some records were lost in a flood and that the oddly familiar annual weight haul amounts could be a result of trucks being overfilled, prompting record keepers to simply insert a maximum amount, legislators said.

DEP is reportedly investigating. The agency has, thus far, publicly maintained that there was proper oversight and that the permit’s parameters were fulfilled.

According to legislators, DEP could establish a web page/portal where residents will be able to obtain information on the quarry situation.

There could also be public meetings regarding the quarry’s quest to receive the final green light to establish an asphalt plant, an officials said.

Currently, Pierson is prohibited from mining, officials said. That stay began in December when asbestos was found at the site. Some activity, however, is allowed, noted Staats. Both the quarry and environmental officials are said to be conducting further asbestos testing.

During the meeting, one resident said his water has turned brown since quarry operations resumed. Others expressed a concern, shared by legislators, that machines meant to mitigate unhealthy particulate matter – industrial dust from the quarry operations – from entering the air will be inadequate to protect locals from the pollutants.

“How can you say the dust is going to stay within a property line?” questioned Fitzpatrick.

Another resident said he is concerned about the quantities of water the quarry is using. He fears the private well that serves his home could run dry as a result. Other locals near the quarry worry about the possible drawdown – as well as the potential for quarry-caused pollutants to render their well water unsafe for consumption.

At least one local who spoke Saturday thinks that DEP doesn’t have the budget, manpower or “willpower” to ensure the quarry operates in line with regulations.

Santarsiero said legislators are actively involved and will work to see that everything is done by the book.

Richard E. Pierson Materials Corp. has been working the quarry in support of its $224 million contract to provide asphalt for about seven miles of the Northeast Extension.

For nearly a year, East Rockhill Township and Pierson have locked horns at zoning hearing board meetings focused on the quarry. The sides have also been pitted against each other with claims in federal district court in Philadelphia. They are scheduled for a meeting in federal court on Jan. 28 and 29.


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