Charlestown To Monitor Levels Of Noise At Quarry Families Near Devault Quarry Have Been Calling The Township As Early As 4 A.m. Company Officials Deny Noise Violations.

Posted: June 15, 1997

CHARLESTOWN — While blasting at the Devault quarry has been a fact of life for Rita Souder since 1954, the force of recent blasting is ``all too new - and too scary.''

``The first thing I thought was something had happened to the oil burner,'' said Souder, who can see the lights of the Devault Crushed Stone quarry from her home. ``Then I realized the whole house had vibrated from the blast.''

Ann Kline sees nails popping out of her floorboards these days. ``We feel the initial blast followed by a sharp crack,'' Kline said.

Bob Weits has a different problem. His family is disturbed by the beeping of trucks as they back up at the quarry and at Great Valley Materials, an asphalt paving plant across the street, said Weits, who lives about 700 feet from the quarry.

``My wife and my 14-year-old son are having trouble sleeping. It gets you crazy,'' said Weits. One Sunday the beeping started at 5 p.m. and ended at 5 a.m., he said.

``I bought three acres in rural countryside and now this.''

For months, township officials said, they have been fielding a barrage of complaints from residents about blasting and late-night noises at the quarry and paving plant on Route 29. Operations were expanded last year.

Charlestown supervisors said they planned to start monitoring and documenting both operations for blasting and noise. Blasting occurs once or twice a week, according to Sally Silverman, spokeswoman for the owner of both sites, Allan A. Myers Inc.

The Worcester-based firm bought the limestone and granite quarry two years ago from Riverdale Quarry Co. The quarry had been dormant for two years before the purchase.

In a prepared statement, William Murdock, executive vice president of Myers, said Tuesday that the company is in ``complete compliance with township ordinances concerning hours of operation. During the hours when the quarry is not operating, 6 p.m. to 6 a.m., machinery is being maintained. This involves lubricating, repairing and cleaning the plant and equipment.''

The company, Murdock said, is ``well within the limits of the law and the force of the blasts is no greater than it has been recently, nor is it greater than it was when operated by the previous owners.''

As for the paving plant, Myers is operating within its rights and township ordinances involving hours of operation and noise, according to Silverman.

Township zoning officer Surender Kohli reported to the board June 2 that decibel levels at the plant were last checked in 1996 and found to be in compliance. Kohli has suggested a new independent test and said Wednesday that he would contact an outside firm to do the tests the board had authorized.

Kohli said the board wanted him to ``swing by [the quarry and plant] after night meetings to see what is going on.''

Township phone logs show residents calling about noise at the sites as early as 4 a.m.

``Some are so frustrated from the noise and lack of sleep, they are crying,'' said township secretary Linda Csete, who takes the messages. And about 70 residents turned out at an April 21 supervisors meeting to complain about blasting.

The township has hired an independent seismological firm to measure the force of the blasts and has plotted on a map where the complaints are coming from.

According to Supervisor Irene Ewald, Myers will pay for the study, estimated at $6,000 to $9,000 a week for the next three months.

Ewald said that at a May 19 supervisors meeting, Myers ``was made aware that in addition to the blasting there were noise issues that were considered to be a problem with both sites.''

``We are well aware of the special nature of the community in which we are located,'' Murdock said. ``We have tried to be good neighbors by complying with local ordinances and improving our physical property'' he said, referring to $250,000 the company has spent on improving the quarry's appearance.

The battle between quarry owners, eager to expand their operations, and the residents who oppose them, is not unique to Pennsylvania, although the problem is particularly acute here, according to industry sources.

``Individual quarries work hard to be good neighbors,'' said Gus Edwards, vice president for communications of the National Stone Association.

``We are regulated by a number of federal and state agencies so we operate under a very strict set of rules and regulations. Noises are part of it. My guess is the quarry was there before the homes.''

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