An electrical contractor’s expansion plan drew eight neighbors to a Feb. 17 Planning Board public hearing. The neighbors complained that blasting at the site had shaken their homes. Some said they feared further blasting could damage their property and an aquifer they depend on for water.
Electrical contractor Randy Richers plans to level a section of the former quarry on Rt. 32 where his business is located to provide additional space to store equipment and materials.
The proposed expansion would cover just under an acre. Richers proposes storing tools, drilling equipment, utility poles, electrical services and similar items, said engineer Scott Lane. The operation would involve blasting and crushing of a limestone ledge on the property, he said.
Two companies, North American Quarry Construction and Vibertech, have been hired to work on this operation, Lane said.
“I don’t think this is such a great thing, to tell you the truth,” said neighbor Arnie Sand. “He’s already been blasting back there, and the ledge is unstable to begin with, I would think, and I don’t think any more blasting right on top of my property is going to help it.”
Ronald Myers said he has a number of concerns. “We put an addition on our house, and there are a number of cracks that appeared after the blasting. I’m also concerned about the water table. We all have wells there. Has a study been done to see the impact of that blasting on the wells?”
“My main thing is I’m just off the ledge, and I know my neighbors are on the ledge, and I don’t know where this seismic activity is going to follow,” said Ben Kohler. “I do know that my well is less than nine feet deep. It’s fresh water, it’s good water, and there’s enough water. My concern is the blasting of that ledge; is it going to affect the ground water, the well water? If it’s worse, there’s no way to go back.”
The ledge is solid limestone, Lane [the engineer] said, “and vibration should not be an issue at all. I know your property is 30 to 50 feet from where the blasting occurred, but this was an old mine. We’ve hired an expert to seismically check.”
Several others in the audience expressed similar concerns, describing the work as sounding like a bomb. In response to one neighbor’s description of earlier blasting, Lane noted that under the town law at the time of the initial blasting, there was no requirement for notification of neighbors.
The board’s planning consultant, Dan Shuster, noted that the town’s engineers had recommended that a pre-blasting inspection of nearby dwelling be conducted, with follow-up inspections to verify any damage claims. “This should establish what existed prior to blasting, what the conditions were afterward; an open process conducted by an independent party, not the applicant.”
Richers assured the neighbors that the blasting would all be above-grade. While he could not assure the neighbors that this would preclude damage, he noted that “I have hired professionals to do it, and they do this every day. They are one of the best companies around, both Vibertech and North American.”
Some of the homeowners at the meeting were just outside of the 500-foot perimeter the developer would be required to contact, Lane said. However, he later agreed that on request any neighbor could be kept informed of blasting plans.
Board member Dan Weeks suggested that the 500-foot limit on requirements for prior and post inspections may not be sufficient to protect neighbors’ homes. “The one protection that is being offered is this documentation of the condition before and after,” he said. “Right now it says 500 feet and I’m not sure whether you’re offering an extension of that to people who would like you to do that beyond the 500 feet?”
“This is a great expense to me,” Richers said. “Hopefully, not everybody is going to take me up on this, but I am willing to do the people who are just on the border; I’ll extend it a little bit if I have to.” Twenty-nine neighbors live within 500 feet of Richers’ property line, but only five or six within 500 feet of the actual blast area, he estimated.
So far, there has been just one complaint of damage to a home since the last round of blasting several months ago, said Lane. That is still pending.
Board Chairman Howard Post told the applicants that the board will need to discuss the issues that were raised. Richers and his attorney would have to attend the next meeting on March 17, he said.