Photo and story by Susan Mikula Campbell
On Earth Day last week, officials from Lafarge North America met with Town of Niagara residents who live near its quarry off Lockport Road to assure them things will be different when the facility reopens this season.
"At Lafarge, we pride ourselves on being a good neighbor. We remain committed to the residents of Tuscarora Village, Colonial Village and Wildwood Acres," said George Lindbloom, plant manager. "We will increase our communications with the community by hosting quarry committee meetings and providing advance notice of blasting."
The meeting at the Calvin K. Richards Senior/Youth Activity Center in Veterans Park, also off Lockport Road, drew about 60 people.
The local quarry ceased operations in 2007 after a downturn in business due to the economy, and local operations were consolidated at the Lockport quarry. At that time, the Town of Niagara quarry drew many complaints from residents about noise, dust and even damage to their homes because of the vibration.
The demand for quarry stone for roads and construction projects in this end of Niagara County is increasing, and reopening the Town of Niagara quarry is more cost effective than transporting the product from Lockport, residents were told.
This time, the company will be blasting in a new area - on the north quarry wall, about 600 feet from neighboring residences, moving in a westerly direction toward the west wall. As they progress, they will move further and further away from Tuscarora Road and residences there. Previous blasting focused on the east wall, which is closer to residences.
Operations will start out on a much smaller scale than they have been in the past. Materials obtained through the drilling and blasting process are run through a crusher to produce road base and other products. The company plans to produce between 200,000 and 300,000 tons of crushed stone in 2010, about half the amount from years past.
Plus, the use of a smaller, compact crusher and changes in blasting technology should lesson the affect on the community, officials said.
In answer to resident questions, Lindbloom and blasting specialist John Cory responded that there will be a dust control program, no explosives will be stored on site and vibrations will be monitored. A permanent seismograph, run on a solar panel, was placed that day on the property of the nearest homeowner on Tuscarora Road.
Mark Proctor of Dyno Nobel, the explosives company for Lafarge, said materials for blasting are stored in separate compartments on the truck carrying them to the quarry and are blended on site. The materials have to be blended at certain amounts to become explosive and the process is computerized, he said.
Cory said shooting will be done 60 to 70 feet down on the lower bench of the quarry, where the wall will have a containing effect on sound and dust. Smaller diameter blasting holes and shots will be used. The company is expecting to shoot about 10 times this year, but that number could go up if sales increase, Lindbloom added.
The company will be hiring five to seven employees this season, some who were laid off and some new hires, Lindbloom said.
Lindbloom is hoping for "a little more clarity than we have had in the past" between the company and residents. He passed out his business card and urged residents with concerns to call him at 439-1300, ext. 120.
One woman asked to whom she should submit her previous damages, noting, "so far I've not been able to get anybody to help me." Lindbloom promised to get back to her, due to a recent change in the insurance company.
He also invited residents to set up an appointment to come and see an actual blast from the Lafarge side of the fence and added he has already talked with Town of Niagara Supervisor Steve Richards about supporting community events.
Richards said he hoped interested residents would take advantage of Lindbloom's offer to join a quarry committee. In the 1980s, a committee was formed with the former CECOS landfill company. What came out of that was free trash pickup and recycling, something other Niagara County communities don't have, he pointed out.
Many residents were still unhappy after the meeting.
"I could wash my house every other day ... my cars, too," pointed out one Tuscarora Road resident about his last experience with the quarry.
"It's all blah, blah, blah, blah. I'm so sick of it," said Virginia Harpham of Wildwood Acres. "Ten years ago, they said they were going to close this quarry in 10 years. They were supposed to make a park out of it."