DEP grants extension to Rockhill quarry owner for asbestos study

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The State Department of Environmental Protection has given the owner of the Rockhill Quarry more time to conduct environmental testing of the property, where asbestos was found in 2018.

Last week, the DEP partially agreed to Hanson Aggregates Pennsylvania’s request to extend its deadline from July 6 to October 29 to conduct certain environmental and health studies related to asbestos. But Hanson still faces a July 6 deadline for a host of other demands, including an explanation of his plan to remove 500 tonnes of material from the site each year.

The DEP said in its review letter in April 2021: “Please keep in mind that if you ignore this request or fail to address all of the gaps listed above by July 6, 2021, your request could be refused. “

Lawmakers oppose quarry:Fitzpatrick, Santarsiero urge EPA to shut down Rockhill career

Residents who have struggled with quarry operations for years have expressed frustration with the delay.

“We are very disappointed that the DEP has granted Hanson another extension to answer questions that should have been addressed long ago,” said Katie Zackon, representative of the Rockhill Environmental Preservation Alliance, or REPA. “All the more so since this extension request serves as a pretext to justify the full start-up of a quarry known to contain asbestos of natural origin and located in a residential area.

The Rockhill quarry has been largely inactive for 30 years, although Hanson maintains that it continued to remove the amount of material required each year to keep its permits valid. Blasting and mining resumed in earnest in February 2018, causing a dispute between the Township of East Rockhill and quarry owner and former operator RE Pierson Construction, of Pilesgrove, New Jersey. In March 2020, a judge sided with East Rockhill Township officials in a zoning decision blocking an asphalt plant on the site.

Asbestos of natural origin was discovered at the quarry in December 2018, and the DEP gave an order to stop all operations at the quarry. He had to tackle a lengthy environmental investigation, but it was put on hold due to the COVID pandemic.

In January, Hanson said he plans to limit mining operations to the required minimum of 500 tonnes per year to maintain inventories. He is not appealing the asphalt plant’s decision.

In April, Hanson wrote to the DEP that he believed the information requested by the agency went “well beyond the limited short-term activity proposed by Hanson for this property.”

State lawmakers and residents have called for the site to be closed completely.

“No other quarry in the country containing naturally occurring asbestos is allowed to operate so close to schools, children and residences,” said State Senator Steve Santarsiero, D-10, Lower Makefield, who called for the quarry to be closed. It’s time to put an end to all career activities at this facility for good.

In a letter to DEP, REPA attorney Mark Freed called the extension request a “further delay tactic” and a “dishonest” way to resume “full” quarry operations.

He went on to say that Hanson blamed the DEP delay on claiming that “full quarry exploitation” was not the intended project. On the contrary, the intention of several round trips was limited to 500 tonnes per year to maintain their mining license.

“This delay, which may have been strategic in essence, is simply not acceptable to our community and should not have been accepted by DEP,” Zackon said. “The expectation was formulated by the DEP to meet the July 6 deadline and this expectation was clearly communicated. … We just don’t understand.

Congressman Brian Fitzpatrick, R-1, of Middletown, also opposed the DEP’s decision to extend the deadline.

“For too long, our community has been eagerly awaiting a decision on the future of the Rockhill career. This partial extension is a fallacious move for all residents of the area, as Hanson has made it clear that they plan to take this opportunity to apply for full career operations, which goes far beyond the original scope of this DEP request, ”Fitzpatrick said. . “The choice is simple, stop playing games and close Rockhill’s career for good – public safety and the general well-being of our community depend on it. “

Blaming asbestos naturally raises health concerns for more than the residents around the quarry. Over 11,000 students attend 24 local public and private schools in the area, including the Pennridge and Quakertown Community school districts.

REPA has hired Dr Bradley Erskine, who has written 18 technical reports on asbestos in the quarry, and called for its closure, believing there is no safe way to mine it due to the asbestos, Zackon said.

“We don’t understand why (the) DEP isn’t protecting us,” Zackon said. “It’s offensive. DEP is unwilling to protect residents. If you are not ready to close an asbestos quarry, what are you ready to do? “


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