A Rocky Road For Quarry Owner

July 27, 1995|By Erik Nelson | Erik Nelson,Sun Staff Writer

The 1 1/2 -year battle between state regulators and Howard County's only quarry has ended, but the owner says resulting losses may drive him to sell his business.

James "Skip" Piccirilli said he is preparing to begin mining on the part of his quarry that was shut down in November 1993 by the state agency that regulates mines. Piccirilli Quarries -- which Mr. Piccirilli owns with his father, William -- borders Marriottsville Road south of Driver Road in Marriottsville.

Mr. Piccirilli says the required shutdown on a steep slope that faces the road has cost his company $300,000 to $400,000.

Inspectors from the State Water Management Administration closed the section, saying better sediment control was required to keep silt from polluting rivers and streams and spilling onto Marriottsville Road.

Inspectors visited the quarry May 31 with state Sen. Christopher McCabe, and lifted the order.

C. Edmon Larrimore, chief of the state Department of Natural Resources division that regulates mines, said the action was prompted by Mr. Piccirilli's installation of a sediment-control trap and meeting other requirements of his state-approved sediment-control plan.

Mr. Piccirilli said that while the state action was a relief, it may have come too late.

"It leaves me damaged to the point where I wonder whether my dad and me, we may have to put the place up for sale and leave," he said.

Despite the changes he's made, he said the site and its sediment control ponds and ditches aren't much different from the way they were when the section was shut down. "I asked them, why couldn't they agree to it the day they shut me down," he said.

At a lot across the street, competitor Joe Vinci also doesn't see much change in the way Piccirilli Quarry controls sediments.

Mr. Vinci sells stone mined from his quarry in Baltimore County, where he said he has spent $10,000 on engineering to comply with state regulations.

"I can't compete with somebody who isn't being made to abide by the same rules that I'm being made to abide by," he said, adding that Mr. Piccirilli's experience has taught him that resisting regulations pays off.

Mr. Piccirilli said his resistance stems from his belief that the state sediment-control requirements don't serve any purpose.

Mr. Larrimore, however, believes they do. Allowing the sediment-polluted water to run through channels into a sediment pond and settle into the ground prevents it from getting into the nearby Patapsco River. Once there, it would silt over the gravel bottom, damaging plant and fish habitats.

State regulations require sediment controls for any large-scale activity that breaks up soil, such as grading for quarrying.

In 1994, Mr. Larrimore estimated that the Piccirillis could solve their problems with $3,000 to $4,000 worth of engineering. Mr.Piccirilli says he ended up spending $4,000 to $5,000.

Throughout his fight, Mr.Piccirilli has accused state and federal mine inspectors of harassing him -- often at the same time other quarry operators have been pressuring him to sell his business.

But neither Mr. Piccirilli nor his father are anxious to sell their 35-year-old operation. The father-and-son team mine and sell quartzite, a stone used for the fronts of homes, retaining walls and fireplaces.

The Piccirillis have earned praise from community leaders for their charitable donations of stone. In 1972, they allowed the Army Corps of Engineers to haul truckloads of earth and stone to rebuild bridges, roads and buildings devastated by Hurricane Agnes. Several years ago, they donated stone to refurbish the neglected Whipps Cemetery in Ellicott City.

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