Quarry blasts may tip china Geological expert predicts explosions won't damage homes

April 12, 1996|By Ivan Penn | Ivan Penn,SUN STAFF

Attention residents: Prepare to secure your porcelain and fine china. Tremors from explosions at developer Kingdon Gould Jr.'s proposed quarry operation could send those delicate items crashing to the floor.

A geological expert, testifying before the Howard County Board of Appeals last night on behalf of Mr. Gould, said vibrations from blasting on his Chase property probably would cause the china to "rattle" the same way it does when a person is "walking across a dining-room floor."

"I would recommend [porcelain or china] not be right by the edge of the shelf," said David K. Miller, a geologist with Bethesda-based Schnabel Engineering Associates. "Just make sure those are secure."

Otherwise, the twice-a-week blasting at Mr. Gould's quarry -- where the developer wants to mine a crystalline rock called Baltimore gabbro and stockpile sand, gravel, clay and fill dirt -- would cause no damage to nearby homes, Mr. Miller said.

He said blasting levels would be well below state and federal restrictions.

That offered little relief to quarry opponents, mostly nearby residents who fear the project will cause their property values to plunge.

"I think I wouldn't be happy if I found my porcelain on the floor," Conwell F. Sapp, an attorney representing opponents, said in response to Mr. Miller.

Mr. Miller was one of the last of several experts to testify in support of the quarry project over the past two months. His testimony came during the second of two hearings this week.

At a hearing Tuesday night, a Gould sound expert told the board that explosions and other sounds from the proposed quarry would be lower in volume than the average conversation.

"The quarry noise will probably be inaudible," said the expert, Michael Staiano.

"I'm not guaranteeing that everybody's going to be happy," he said. "One person's music is another person's noise. No operator of a facility wants hostility with the neighbors."

Mr. Gould wants to mine the crystalline rock on a 546-acre wooded parcel he owns between Interstate 95 and U.S. 1, south of Route 175.

The rock is the main mineral he wants to mine because the Maryland Department of Natural Resources advised him that his Chase property might be one of the last sites that can be used to quarry the rock.

Baltimore gabbro, known for its hardness and uniform texture, is used mostly for road construction.

If all local and state regulatory hurdles are cleared, mining could begin in two to three years.

Because neighbors would have to endure blasting and dust, Mr. Gould promised them a 5,000-square-foot community center; 5 cents for every ton of minerals he mines at the site, with at least $50,000 a year guaranteed; and, when mining is complete, parkland with a lake.

In addition, about three dozen homeowners within 1,000 feet of the quarry -- including residents in Pleasant Chase and Heritage Woods -- would receive free "pre-blasting" surveys.

The surveys would assess cracks, leaks and other problems before the quarrying began, Mr. Miller said last night, adding that damage caused by quarrying would be repaired by Mr. Gould.

Some homeowners near the site have formed a group called Stop the Quarry Coalition.

They fear the quarry -- particularly because of the blasting -- will lower their property values.

They say that during the half-dozen nights of hearings, they heard few details about the impact the quarry would have on the several hundred homes near the proposed site.

"Where's the beef?" said attorney David A. Carney, who also represents quarry opponents, during a break in Tuesday night's hearing. "That's what I want to know."

Board of Appeals members will resume public hearings on the issue Tuesday night, when they are to hear testimony from residents who support the quarry.

No testimony will be heard from experts recruited by attorneys for the opponents because those names were not submitted before the hearings started.

Mr. Carney filed a petition to have his experts included in the hearing, but the board denied the request last week.

Pub Date: 4/12/96

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