Soil Board renews permit for Assonet quarry

By Kim Ledoux
November 02, 2009 12:00 AM

FREETOWN — Over the protests of a group of Freetown and Berkley residents, the Freetown Soil Board has voted to renew for one year a permit held by Cape Cod Aggregates to operate a quarry on Bryant Street.

Soil Board Chairman Lawrence N. Ashley told quarry opponents that the town can pull the permit at any time and will continue to closely watch the operation.

Twenty people turned out last week at a soil board meeting to speak against the renewal.

“The overall quality of life has been adversely affected since the operation of the quarry,” said Ted Quinn, an Assonet resident. “What was once known as a sand and gravel mining pit is now a full-blown industrial quarry operation located in a residential neighborhood.”

Quinn went on to say that “the once relatively quiet neighborhood is now disturbed by blasts … occurring on a regular basis. … When they blast, it feels like a truck or train hit my house.”

Members of No Quarry in Berkley, a group of residents also opposed to the operation, said they worry about structural damage to homes, noise pollution and fly rock damage, as well as air and water pollution from silica dust.

Jean C. Fox, chairwoman of the Board of Selectman and member of the Soil Board, said that the concern about silica dust — mentioned in letters to selectmen — is unfounded, because that type of dust comes from the mining of quartz, which, she said, is only found in minute quantities on the property.

The Soil Board received 20 letters from Freetown residents and four letters from Berkley residents asking them to not renew the permit for Cape Cod Aggregates.

According to the Soil Board, the safety of the quarry has been much improved since CCA took over the gravel operation from Freetown Sand and Gravel in 2007.

“You have concerns and we respect that. We have been working with this company and our officials attend the blasts regularly,” Fox said. “Your concerns should be addressed and will be addressed, but as (Soil Board Chairman Ashley) said, the way the law is stated they are not in violation and have in fact exceeded the standards set by the federal government and the state government.

“So, in my mind, we have no grounds to pull the permit at this point. I would like to add that (Cape Cod Aggregates) has done their level best to be a good community partner.”

Cape Cod Aggregates blasts an average of once a week except during the winter months.

Dave Peterson, Freetown project manager for CCA, said the blasting time collectively adds up to less than a minute of blasting annually, and blasts have been an average of 97 percent below the state mandated threshold for noise and vibration.

“We are fully committed to working closely with town officials and residents in Freetown and Berkley, as we have in the past,” Peterson said. “We will continue this ongoing dialogue to provide information, answer all questions and reassure town officials and the public that we meet every town, state, and federal safety and operational standard and guidelines.”

He added that as a family owned and operated business, “we are committed to enhancing the local business climate and to contributing to community needs in the schools, town recreation programs and other areas.”

CCA has donated to the town fireworks fund.

The company has a call list to notify neighbors the day before or morning of a blast, although weather conditions can sometimes result in a postponement.

Anyone interested in being added to the list should call (508) 644-3373 and ask for Robin.

The entire site is about 88 acres, 24 of which CCA has a permit to operate as a quarry.

So far, 70,000 cubic feet of aggregate has been removed.

Freetown Fire Chief Gary Silvia, who has attended most of the blasts, said the company has “gone above and beyond what they are required to do.”

Members of No Quarry suggested establishing a bylaw that would limit blasting and rock crushing operations to a minimum of three miles from residential neighborhoods.

But Fox said that kind of bylaw would would shut down a number of businesses in town.