Town Council Resolution To Support Residents Living Near Copar Quarry
In January, the Charlestown Town Council passed a resolution in support of residents living near the Copar Quarry. The text of that resolution follows.
A Resolution to
Support Charlestown and Westerly Residents residing near THE Copar Quarry
WHEREAS: Certain residents of Charlestown and the Bradford section of the Town of Westerly (“Residents”) have filed suit against Copar Quarries of Westerly, LLC, Westerly Granite Co., Inc. (collectively hereinafter “Copar”) and the Town of Westerly. The Residents are frustrated that Copar continues to operate despite their efforts to curtail and/or stop the operations of Copar. The Residents are frustrated that they are not being heard by the Town of Westerly’s government.
Copar asserts that the quarry has been in operation for more than 100 years, and that it is their right to quarry granite, and crush the granite into various sizes stones for road construction; ¾ of an inch is typical of Copar’s screened granite stone. The quarry material can be mined for decades into the future based on the volume of granite available at the site.
The Residents Situation:
WHEREAS: The Residents are frustrated at the method Copar used to obtain its permit to quarry and frustrated with Copar’s current operation. They want the operation shut down based upon arguments such as:
- Residents state permission for Copar open was illegally obtained. That is being litigated at this time.
- Quarrying at the current level and intensity of operation had ceased years ago, and at best burial headstones had been removed from the site. The Copar operation has increased beyond removing a few headstones into a large continuous, highly mechanized quarrying operation.
- Granite dust exposure over time causes silicosis which is typically fatal. Fugitive granite dust emissions leave Copar due to the size and ineffectively regulated pile of process by-product granite dust stored on-site. Copar claims there is no economic value to the granite dust. However, from time to time Copar is able to sell some of the material. Residents state the pile is 50 to 60 feet high, 300 feet wide, 500 feet long, and continues to grow.
- Copar states there is 40,000 tons in their pile of granite dust. That is 80 million pounds of material. And, as the wind blows, granite dust leaves the Copar site and goes onto Residents’ property.
- Explosions to blast away more material to crush into construction gravel have occurred approximately 20 times or every three to five weeks since April 2011. The residents state that foundations and chimneys have cracked, interior walls have cracked, windows have broken, pictures have fallen off the walls, glass shelves have broken, lightbulbs break and have to be replaced, and that the Residents have not been notified by Copar when the blasts would occur.
- Noise from rock crushing, truck and earth moving equipment backup alarms, and truck traffic is causing a normally quiet and rural area to be disrupted. The Residents state this is not consistent with a light industry land use.
- The Residents state that the scale, dump truck parking, and some of the road recently paved to exit on Route 216, is on land zoned for RR60, or Residential Land, not industrial land.
- The Residents also state that their water supplies have either dried up altogether, or their wells have produced red, globules of material after an explosive shot.
- The Residents state that tree stumps have been dumped on the property.
- Residents state water pollution is visible in streams and ponds both on Copar’s site and in the Copar vicinity. Oil or hydraulic fluid and granite dust off-site emissions have been reported.
- The Residents state that the equipment does not pay tangible asset taxes.
- The Residents state that the trucks are registered in Connecticut, but are parked in the Copay Quarry nightly.
- The Charlestown residents that live on Niantic Highway have been threatened that their road will be closed by Copar. The residents comment that the State of Rhode Island owned Niantic Highway at one time and abandoned it. The Charlestown residents maintain Niantic Highway themselves and have no other access to their property for emergency vehicles such as fire, police and ambulance other than Niantic Highway.
The Residents’ Wishes:
WHEREAS: The Residents want the Town of Westerly to revoke Copar’s license to operate a quarry. They state that the Special Use Variance was improperly given to Copar. They state that Copar is not operating a light industrial business when 20,000 pounds of explosives blast away 17,500 cubic yards of granite from face of rock that may be 50 to 50 feet tall. The Residents state that portions of the operation (truck parking and scales) are on property zoned Residential. They state that granite dust is leaving Copar and being deposited on their property. Prolonged exposure to granite dust causes acute silicosis. Acute silicosis is a rapidly progressive, incurable lung disease that is typically fatal. Symptoms include (but are not limited to): shortness of breath, cough, fever, weight loss, and chest pain. Copar has piled the granite dust in one large pile estimated to be 60 to 80 feet high to languish.
WHEREAS, Several studies of persons with silicosis also indicate an increased risk of developing lung cancer, a risk that increases with the duration of exposure. Many of these studies of silicotics do not account for lung cancer confounders, especially smoking. Granite is not listed as a carcinogen by the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC), the National Toxicology Program (NTP), or the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA). In October 1996, an IARC Working Group re-assessing crystalline silica, a component of this product, designated respirable crystalline silica as carcinogenic (Group 1). The NTP’s Report on Carcinogens. 9th edition, lists respirable crystalline silica as a “known human carcinogen.” In year 2000, the American Conference of Governmental Industrial Hygienists (ACGIH) listed respirable crystalline silica (quartz) as a suspected human carcinogen (A-2). These classifications are based on sufficient evidence of carcinogenicity in certain experimental animals and on selected epidemiological studies of workers exposed to crystalline silica. (Taken from Material Safety Data Sheet as attached and posted on the Department of Labor’s, Mining Safety And Health Adminstration’s (MSHA) website)
WHEREAS, Explosive shots that dislodge massive amounts of granite from the wall face may not exceed the Federal Guidelines, but they do affect the quality of life for the residents.
Maine Drilling and Blasting, Copar’s explosive subcontractor places seismographs at the Copar property line. As stated in a recent claim denial letter from the insurance company, “seismographs are used during blasting operations to record ground vibration and air overpressure (air blast) propagation. The peak particle velocity of the ground vibration is used to determine the probability of vibration-induced damage to a structure. Peak particle velocity is the velocity of particles of earth oscillating around their equilibrium point as the blast induced ground vibrations pass; this velocity is measured in inches per second. The industry standard for safe blasting is 2.0 inches per second peak particle velocity and is based on a study by the US Bureau of Mines (report RI 8507). Two inches per second peak particle velocity is the criteria used to protect weaker building materials in a typical structure such as sheet rock or plaster. This criterion is very conservative and reflects caution used by the industry as well as public safety officials. Other materials such as concrete, brick, block and tile can withstand much greater ground vibrations (4.0 in/sec to 10.0 in/sec). To put this in perspective, studies have shown that a person jumping produces up to 1.8 inches per second and slamming a door can produce up to 1.3 inches per second.”
Several members of the Charlestown Town Council witnessed an explosive shot of 20,000 pounds of explosives that dislodged 17,500 cubic yards of material from the quarry face. The ground shook underneath our feet as the shock wave prorogated from the blast. Residents reported cracked walls and well water volumes diminished and reddish orange colored globby water from their faucet.
The Residents are not warned by Copar when an explosive shot occur. The Charlestown Town Council would use our Code Red phone messaging system to warn anyone within a mile and one half of Copar if the Town was notified.
WHEREAS, Copar operates crushing equipment, and heavy equipment and truck back up warning signals during operating hours, residents state that the noises are disruptive and unceasing.
The Residents state the hours of operation are as follows:
- Weekdays: 7:00 am to 4:30 pm
- Crushing: 8:00 am to 3:30 pm
- Saturday: No crushing
The stone crushers violently take larger pieces of granite to construction grade pieces, and eject granite dust during the process of crushing and sizing the granite. Residents state they cannot relax and enjoy the outdoors during operational hours. Their quality of life is negatively affected by Copar’s noisy operation. Residents have decibel reports that show noise in excess of 120 Db’s. Sounds in excess of 90 Db’s are considered dangerous. Residents state continual noise and spikes of Db’s in this range affects their quality of life and are not consistent with 60 Db’s of a light industrial business.
Safe, Available, Potable Well Water:
WHEREAS, Some Charlestown residents, after an explosive shot, lose water all together, have reduced water pressure, and have reddish brown globby water from their faucets. Residents have installed water filters and softening systems to compensate for the change in water. The Residents state this was not the case prior to Copar’s increased quarrying operations. The Residents are frustrated that governmental organizations are not responding to their requests or issues.
Niantic Highway, Charlestown:
WHEREAS, Charlestown residents who live on Niantic Highway are concerned about close proximity to Copar. Niantic Highway is a dirt and gravel road that is a private road and not owned by the Town of Charlestown.
Residents state that Niantic Highway was once owned by the State of Rhode Island, and then the Town of Charlestown. Charlestown does not own Niantic Highway. The residents along Niantic Highway maintain the road and during the floods of 2010, Niantic Highway was partially washed out south of the last house along the quarry.
Niantic Highway is the only access for police, fire and ambulance services. Residents state that Copar wanted to take the road and block residence access to their property. The Town of Charlestown objects to Copar taking over the road and will stand with the residents and resist any such take over of Niantic Highway.
WHEREAS: The Residents state that streams both on and off Copar’s property have granite dust in the water, oil sheens due to hydraulic fluid or oil are present in water and/or wetlands on Copar property. Additionally, the above described reddish brown globby water is observed by the residents.
NOW, THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED that we, the Town Council of the Town of Charlestown, Rhode Island, respectfully request that the Town of Westerly, the Rhode Island General Assembly, and relevant State and Federal agencies consider immediate action, legislation and/or regulation to either stop or significantly curtail commercial quarry operations in residential areas within the State of Rhode Island, because residents have an operation that is causing an unreasonable impact upon their lives. The Copar Quarry causes an intolerable living situation that affects their health and welfare. Their property values have diminished due to the close proximity to Copar.
AND, BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED, that the Town Clerk is hereby instructed to submit a copy of this resolution to the Town of Charlestown’s and Westerly’s State Senators and State Representatives in the Rhode Island General Assembly along with the Governor, Director and Chief of Compliance of the Rhode Island Department of Environmental Management, Rhode Island State Fire Marshall, Director Rhode Island DMV, Judge Stern, Michael Slosberg, Jr., UBS, Westerly Town Council, Westerly Town Manager, Robert Craven, Esquire, Special Zoning Officer, United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), OSHA, MSHA, Charlestown Building Official, Westerly Zoning Official, and Westerly Zoning Board showing the Town of Charlestown’s support and seeking their consideration of and support for these administrative and legislative act to assist the residents.
The RESOLUTION shall take effect immediately upon the date hereof.
By resolution of the Charlestown Town Council
at a meeting held on January 28, 2013
Attested To By
Amy Rose Weinreich, Town Clerk