WESTERLY – No dust violations have been found at Copar Quarries by the Rhode Island Department of Environmental Management since the agency began investigating complaints lodged against the company since August 2011, the state agency said in a letter last week.
DEM has received 78 complaints concerning dust and the department subsequently conducted 24 investigations in response to the complaints and seven random inspections, David E. Chopy, chief of DEM’s Office of Compliance and Inspection, wrote in a Feb. 19 letter mailed to Westerly Town Manager Steven Hartford and Town Administrator William DiLibero,
Neighbors of the Bradford quarry claim Copar fails to adequately control stone dust, which they say drifts on to their land, damaging their property and posing a health risk.
According to Chopy’s letter, DEM can determine that dust has traveled beyond the property line in one of two ways: first, by visually observing dust traveling beyond the property line, and second, if “overwhelming evidence of dust is present over a wide-spread area where the source is the sole source.”
“Thus far, no violations have been found,” Chopy wrote.
According to the letter, DEM has also received complains regarding surface water pollution, drinking water contamination, freshwater wetlands alteration, solid waste disposal, hazardous waste disposal, blasting, noise and hours of operation.
DEM has regulatory authority over the majority of these areas except for blasting, noise and hours of operation.
In July 2012 DEM issued a notice of violation to Westerly Granite, the company which owns the property on which that quarry is located, and Copar, for discharging storm water into quarry ponds on the property without a permit from DEM.
In that same notice, which was also issued by Chopy, DEM also stated that Copar was altering wetlands on its property without a permit from DEM and improperly disposing of solid waste on the property.
The companies appealed the notice and in the Feb. 19 letter Chopy said Copar has taken action to address the “minor wetland violations” and has properly removed and disposed of all the solid waste.
In the July notice, Chopy cited one of the wetland violations as “major” saying that Copar was clearing and filling at least 47,000 square feet of freshwater wetland with soil material, stone and boulders. This parcel of land is adjacent to quarry ponds and was considered an “unauthorized alteration.”
A pre-hearing regarding the July notice and subsequent appeal was held Jan. 16 at the DEM’s Administrative Adjudication Division. DEM’s Office of Compliance and Inspection submitted its pre-hearing memorandum by Copar and Westerly Granite did not.
The hearing officer then granted a continuance until March 20 for the companies to submit their pre-hearing memorandums “over the Office of Compliance and Investigation’s objection.”
Following the July 2012 notice, the companies also submitted a storm water pollution prevention plan to DEM’s Office of Water Resources later that month, seeking authorization of storm water discharges associated with industrial and construction activities.
According to Chopy, the Office of Water Resources plans to “complete its review and issue a letter to the companies shortly.”
In December 2012, DEM received another complaint that dust was affecting nearby surface waters, an investigation was conducted on Feb. 1, 2013.
According to Chopy, “The investigation is ongoing.”
At this point, DEM is waiting for the hearing to resume in March but Chopy said the department will “continue to investigate the complaints and continue to work to resolve the notice of violation. If our investigations of the complaints reveal violations of DEM’s regulations, the Office of Compliance and Inspection will take the appropriate enforcement action[s] against the companies.”
At a press conference earlier this month, Sam Cocopard, president and CEO of Copar, said the company has addressed all of the concerns raised by DEM.
Copar has also hired an independent company, GZA GeoEnvironmental, to make sure the company is in compliance with all of DEM’s requirements.
GZA has also monitored things like noise from blasting and other operations that DEM does not have jurisdiction over, and have found that all noise is within levels permitted by town ordinance.
Despite DEM’s findings, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency sent Copar an administrative order in January stating that Copar “has violated, and is still in violation of, certain Clean Air Act requirements” relating to performance standards for nonmetallic mineral processing plants.
The action was based on a September 2012 inspection of the quarry and on responses provided by Copar to an information request issued to the company by DEM.
Copar was ordered to comply with several requirements set out by the EPA within 30 days.
Cocopard said Copar is in requirement regarding quarry operations.
Other legal matters concerning the quarry are still ongoing. Special Zoning Officer Robert Craven issued Copar and Westerly Granite a cease and desist order two weeks ago, claiming the companies are violating town ordinance by causing excessive noise and dust emissions. The order, which is under appeal, also revokes the zoning certificate under which the quarry operates.
The Westerly Zoning Board held a special meeting Wednesday evening, after the Chariho Times went to press, regarding Copar’s zoning certificate.
A Superior Court case brought by some neighbors against Copar is also still before Judge Brian Stern.