Enabling Legislation on Quarry Fugitive Silica Dust Passes

The Rhode Island legislature has passed bills in both the House and Senate to reduce fugitive dust from quarrying operations.

Neighbors in the Bradford area of Westerly and Charlestown have been inundated by fugitive dust from a previously abandoned quarry that is now in operation in Westerly.

House Bill 5680 Sub A was sponsored by Representatives Brian Patrick Kennedy, Sam Azzinaro, and Blake Filippi and Senate Bill 621 Sub A was sponsored by Senators Dennis Algiere and Elaine Morgan. Representative Bob Craven, Chair of the House Municipal Committee also took an active role in the passage of these bills.

The health of quarry abutters has been threatened by exposure to toxic silica dust emanating from quarry rock crushers. A stockpile of the quarry dust, which has little market demand, is estimated to be 80,000,000 pounds or 40,000 tons, which is half the weight of a US Navy Aircraft Carrier, and is easily carried off-site by prevailing winds.

In summary, the legislation requires that “Manufactured unwashed sand”, or quarry dust located within 1,500 feet of any occupied dwelling shall not be stockpiled without measures to control fugitive dust from trespassing beyond the quarry’s property line, and RI DEM is authorized to enforce compliance. Such measures include spraying water to moisten the stone dust to bind or solidify the pile. If such measures prove inadequate, the RI DEM Director is authorized to approve other measures, such as enclosures, to prohibit fugitive dust from traveling beyond the border of the quarrying operation.

The residents of Bradford and Charlestown that have been working with the legislators and testifying at the State House include Steve DuBois, Christina Holden Shea, Denise Heitmann, Charles Marsh, and Charlestown Town Councilors Denise Rhodes, George Tremblay, and me. Tommy Liguori from Cherenzia & Associates, Ltd. provided technical assistance to the legislature. Special thanks go to Representative Blake Filippi who made this issue a cause from the start of his campaign, during which he held a public press conference at the Bradford Preserve to highlight the fugitive silica dust issues and explain his strategy for continuing the fight into the legislature.

I appreciate all the work that the neighbors and legislators have done together to improve the health, safety and welfare of Bradford and Charlestown residents.

Tom Gentz

Tom Gentz
Tom Gentz is President of the Charlestown Town Council