Bucks County Herald

East Rockhill residents protest quarry activity

CHRIS RUVO

Resumed activity at a long-dormant quarry in East Rockhill is impacting quality of life, causing road hazards, and threatening everything from property values to local water supply and streams, residents told the township Board of Supervisors Tuesday.

Residents packed the supervisors’ evening meeting to voice their concerns about the Rockhill Quarry, which was not active since the early 1980s until operations recommenced in recent months.

The activity came as a shock to many residents who live near the quarry.

On Tuesday, resident Ryan Gottshall painted a picture of the impacts. He said rock crushing and other industrial operations have been as loud as a freight train running for hours. He said decibel readings at his front door have measured 80 and above.

“If you haven’t experienced it, it’s hard to really understand,” said Gottshall, who noted a repositioning of rock crushers has helped, but did not alleviate the nuisance noise, which he hears inside his home.

Gottshall also displayed two soda bottles filled with heavily sedimented water that he says he retrieved from a stream near the quarry. He said the sedimentation in the water is a result of quarry operations.

Gottshall also used his phone to show a video he took that shows a big truck driving dangerously on local roads. He said the vehicle was a quarry water truck – and just one example of the perilous impacts on roadways that will result from the increase of big truck traffic from the quarry.

“I was run off the road by a truck,” said resident Jeannine Gravel, who added that the quarry produces “unbearable” noise. Operators must “do something so it’s not an eyesore or noise problem,” Gravel said.

Resident John Edwards noted that people walk their pets on North Rockhill Road, where the quarry is located. He said he is concerned that dangerous truck traffic could lead to someone being killed.

“Now you’re risking losing a life,” Edwards said.

Additionally, Edwards told supervisors that he recently spoke with a real estate professional who said property values near the quarry could drop 10 percent to 20 percent.

Residents have also stated that they’re worried that the quarry’s water usage will sap local groundwater supplies and lead to pollution of natural areas.

Supervisors were sympathetic. They authorized the township solicitor to attend an upcoming East Rockhill Zoning Hearing Board meeting at 6 p.m. March 14, at Pennridge High School to represent the township and ensure that concerns are addressed.

Supervisor David Nyman said top concerns include ensuring that the quarry complies with township zoning, as well as addressing noise issues, hours of operation, traffic concerns, potential impact on natural resources, effects on residents’ water and more.

The roots of the March 14 zoning meeting extend back to January when the township zoning officer denied the quarry a permit for extractive operations. The permit was denied “for reasons based on the East Rockhill Township zoning ordinance, including but not limited to the failure to secure special exception approval from the zoning hearing board,” a notice on the township website says. “The extractive operations use is permitted on the quarry property by special exception.”

Subsequently, Richard E. Pierson Materials Corporation – the New Jersey-based company leasing the quarry site – appealed the zoning officer’s application to the zoning hearing board, arguing that special exception approval from the board isn’t required. A determination on whether or not that’s true will be the focus of the March 14 meeting.

While the quarry has not operated since the early 1980s, site owner Hanson Aggregates Pennsylvania has maintained a permit from the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection over the years, township officials have said.

Last autumn, Richard E. Pierson Materials Corporation won a $224 million contract from the Pennsylvania Turnpike Commission to reconstruct and widen seven miles of the Northeast Extension from Lansdale to a mile marker west of Sellersville. Pierson aims to use the quarry to support that project.

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