Congressman asks Pennsylvania governor to halt Rockhill Quarry

Congressman Brian Fitzpatrick has sent a letter to Pennsylvania governor Tom Wolf, asking him to suspend the development of Rockhill quarry until more environmental assessments can be conducted. 

In a report by The Intelligencer, Fitzpatrick’s letter highlighted concerns on the discovery of asbestos at the quarry. He also expressed his appreciation for the state Department of Environmental Protection’s (DEP) decision to halt quarrying activities until an investigation is complete.

He wrote: “Unfortunately, the DEP approved the application despite objections from area residents concerned about air quality effects from dust emanation. This is in addition to concerns regarding noise pollution and infrastructure deterioration due to increased traffic flow.”

Fitzpatrick referred to a letter sent to DEP secretary Patrick McDonnel on 5 Nov, which expanded on the additional concerns, claiming that DEP was aware that the off-site noise was louder in some areas than those on the site.  Also, the letter highlighted concerns about truck traffic and that controls which limit dust emissions have been “known to fail” and posited that water consumption used for dust suppression could impact the aquifer in an area of known water contamination.

Fitzpatrick referred to an earlier letter, sent on 5 November to DEP secretary Patrick McDonnell, which his office provided in a press release announcing his letter to Wolf. This letter elaborated on the additional concerns which claimed that DEP was aware that noise off-site was louder in some areas than it was on the site. It also highlighted concerns about truck traffic, said that controls meant to limit dust emissions have been “known to fail,” and posited that water consumption used for dust suppression could impact the aquifer in an area of known water contamination

State Rep. Craig Staats, R-145, Richland, voiced similar concerns in a separate letter, in which he expressed concern at the potential health risks of asbestos.

Staats wrote: “While I am grateful that swift action was taken by DEP to shut down operations at the quarry, I am asking you to please do everything necessary to ensure that work will not resume there until these health concerns have been fully addressed.”

On 5 December, mining rock crushing and related activities were halted at the quarry following the discovering of asbestos. The DEP says no asbestos material is thought to have left the site.

Hanson Aggregates Pennsylvania, a subsidiary of Heidelberg Cement, owns the quarry. It is being leased and operated by Richard E. Pierson Materials, which has a $224 million contract with the Pennsylvania Turnpike Commission for work on the Northeast Extension.

Jeff Sieg, a spokesman for the quarry’s ownership, said in an email that the asbestos was discovered in unprocessed rock.

He explained that the discovery does not indicate unsafe levels in the air and there are no indications that employees or the surrounding community were at risk. He emphasised that the quarry would meet with the DEP to determine the next steps of asbestos investigation and monitoring.


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