Quarry owner digs in over runoff fight

April 17, 1994|By Erik Nelson | Erik Nelson,Sun Staff Writer

William Piccirilli didn't hesitate when the National Guard sought earth and stone from his Marriottsville quarry to rebuild bridges, roads and buildings devastated by Hurricane Agnes in 1972.

The quarry survived the hurricane and the onslaught of dump trucks and front-end loaders that hauled away the free earth and stone for the repair of Howard County's washed-out roads.

Now, Mr. Piccirilli fears that his 34-year-old business may not survive a fight with state environmental officials, prompted by the stream of muddy water that washes out of a silt pond behind the quarry's chain-link fence along Marriottsville Road.

Mine regulators from the state Department of Natural Resources ordered part of the quarry closed Nov. 10, citing sediment runoff problems.

But the Piccirillis say the part that was shut down, a steep slope facing Marriottsville Road, was the section keeping them in business, since the area behind it is depleted.

They also say that state mining officials are applying regulations arbitrarily and without warning.

"You could go into any quarry and shut them down" using the same regulations, said Mr. Piccirilli, 80, who, with his 39-year-old son, James, mines and sells quartzite, a shiny stone used for the fronts of homes, retaining walls and fireplaces.

But C. Edmon Larrimore, chief of the natural resources department's Non-Coal Surface Mining Division, said that the dispute could be resolved if the Piccirillis would cooperate and make a few minor changes to their operation.

He said that plans for the corrections could be included in the renewal of the quarry's five-year mining permit, which expired April 1.

The main issue is the control of sediment that can wash into streams and harm aquatic ecosystems in rivers and the Chesapeake Bay.

The state requires that any activity that breaks up soil, such as grading for construction or quarrying, be accompanied by sediment control systems. These routinely include a pond that muddy water can drain into and percolate into the ground, leaving the sediment behind.

Mr. Larrimore said sediment runoff could be fixed by a bigger pond, mapping the area to be drained and a small ditch or swale to carry water and sediment to the pond.

Mr. Larrimore estimated that the additional engineering involved could cost $3,000 to $4,000 -- half of what the Piccirillis' estimate.

"There are other [small] quarries in the area that have had to spend that much or more," Mr. Larrimore said.

But the Piccirillis believe the regulations are being enforced unevenly and that the laws make it difficult for a small business to operate.

They have enlisted the aid of several elected officials, including state Sen. Christopher J. McCabe, a Republican from the 14th District.

Mr. McCabe said he met with regulators to work out the problem and objected to the use of a "cease and desist" order in the case.

"Probably this is a good example of how the state regulators, in their desire to do what they're told to do, are having difficulty understanding how it may be affecting a small businessman," Mr. McCabe said.

In an attempt to resolve the dispute, a state regulator is due tomorrow to visit the county's only quarry to discuss the sediment and other problems and help the Piccirillis fill out forms they need to renew their mining permit.

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