Quarry quarrels Appeals board should address health fears of Jessup neighbors.

July 11, 1996

A PROPOSED QUARRY in Jessup would be certain to change the lives of its neighbors. Blasts from the 350-acre operation could send vibrations through the neighborhood, strong enough to tip china off the shelves of nearby homes.

Far more is at stake than dinnerware, however. Microscopic dust particles, called "fine dust," generated by quarries can trigger respiratory problems, experts say. The danger of such dust is something residents would have to live with for a long time. If the project is approved, excavation could last 20 years.

The proposal to develop the quarry comes from Washington parking lot magnate Kingdon Gould Jr. He wants to mine Baltimore gabbro, a crystalline rock most often used for road construction. To compensate residents for their inconvenience, Mr. Gould has promised a community center, at least $50,000 in cash a year and parkland with a lake. The offer gained support of roughly one-third of the surrounding residents.

But the other two-thirds are fighting the proposal with vigor. They have mobilized as the Stop the Quarry Coalition and hired a high-powered zoning attorney. They were stirred to action by worry that the project would bring traffic and noise and lower property values. Now, they contend the quarry could imperil health, too.

The decision for approving the quarry falls on the shoulders of the Howard County Board of Appeals. It will decide, perhaps as early as next month, whether to grant a special zoning exception to Mr. Gould. The project already has gained support from the county's Department of Planning and Zoning and planning board. Neither group addressed the health concerns, though. The Board of Appeals should do so.

That does not mean the board should reject the project out of hand. But the health issue must be resolved. This could happen by following the advice of Glen Besa of the American Lung Association of Maryland. He proposes a requirement that the site be closely monitored to guard against dangerous levels of fine dust. By pledging to monitor the site himself, Mr. Gould could win the kind of support he has gained through other offers to residents.

Pub Date: 7/11/96

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