Maine quarries fear closing over tighter rules

Construction company representatives say a proposal to tighten standards in Augusta, Maine, for blasting in quarries to just 15 % of the current allowable standard would make it impossible to blast and force them to close their mining operations and get out of the stone business, the Portland Press Herald reports.

Officials of Gardiner, ME-based McGee Construction and its blasting contractor, Maine Drilling and Blasting, as well as Augusta-based Quirion Construction, which also has quarrying operations in the city, all said if the current standards in the ordinance decreased as much as proposed it would force them to close down their quarrying operations in Augusta.

And they, and their customers, would have to look elsewhere for stone materials used widely in the construction industry in road and infrastructure projects. They noted the current ordinance was the result of intensive, years-long discussions between industry representatives, city officials, and neighbors to quarry operations.

“The problem with the ordinance, at 15%, which is 50% of what the state allows, is it would effectively shut the quarries down,” said Steve McGee, owner of McGee Construction and the West River Road pit where regular blasting has occurred and which has fueled an ongoing dispute with neighbors of the nearby Grandview neighborhood.

“Fifteen percent wouldn’t allow us enough to be economically feasible at all, he said.

The proposed ordinance change, sponsored by multiple councilors and going to them for discussion Thursday, comes in response both to ongoing complaints from residents of the Grandview neighborhood and to a city official describing a blast he observed from inside a home as startling and alarming.

Disputes between the pit owner and neighbors about the effect of blasting there go back many years, and the city’s current mining and blasting rules were formed after a lengthy process involving multiple interested parties.

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