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Thursday, January 31, 2013

Concerned Citizens of Bradford-Charlestown ask for, and get, commitments from Town Council

Statement to the Charlestown Town Council, January 28, 2013
Run-off from COPAR pollutes Charlestown wetlands
By Jo Ann Ercoli, on behalf of the Concerned Citizens of Bradford-Charlestown (CCBC)

EDITOR'S NOTE: the COPAR quarry in Bradford, just across the town line, has plagued residents for at least a mile around in Bradford and the northwestern corner of Charlestown. The citizens' group provided the Charlestown Council with volumes of evidence - documents, photos, video, witness statements, etc. To their credit, the Town Council responded positively (click here for the Westerly Sun's coverage and here for their editorial). But the town of Westerly has been unmoved. So far. Here's the group's opening statement to the Council last Monday:

We, the citizens of Charlestown continue to stand by our request that the Copar quarry be shut down, and that the Charlestown Town Council support us through the following means:

We request the Town Council to direct town enforcement action in the following instances:

  • When storm water causes mine discharge to cross into Charlestown, as our photographs show we urge Charlestown residents to call DEM.
  • When stone crushing, blasting and truck loading violates Charlestown’s noise and nuisance laws we would like Charlestown law enforcement to take disciplinary action if ordinances are violated by Copar.
  • When silica dust crosses over into Charlestown we would like the town to advocate for their residents to call DEM and report it with expectation for follow through with DEM.
  • When there is excessive truck traffic or overloaded trucks on Charlestown’s section of Route 216 we would like Charlestown law enforcement to take disciplinary action.
  • We also request a resolution of support from the Charlestown Town Council that expresses its wish that the local, state, and federal regulators will strictly enforce the laws regarding zoning, fire safety, air and water pollution, worker safety and public safety. You will want to note Charlestown’s determination to strictly enforce its own laws when Copar infringes on Charlestown.
  • Either in this resolution, or in a separate resolution, we ask that you state your opposition to the expansion of the quarry into Charlestown and to the quarry’s use now, and in the future, as a waste disposal site.

We base our request on the flagrant disregard of local governing bodies, state and federal agencies, and the people of Rhode Island, which disregard, places our quality of life, our health, and our environment in jeopardy.

Specifically, the following facts have been established:

1.         The activity being conducted by Copar Quarries is in violation of the town of Westerly zoning law.

The Westerly Zoning Law, Section 260-28, paragraph G specifically states that “If the permitted use for which the land has been rezoned is abandoned or if the land is not used for the requested purpose for a period of two years or more after the zone change becomes effective, the Town Council may, after a public hearing, order that the land revert to its zone classification preceding the most recent zone change.”

The zoning law further states in Section 260-29, paragraph C  “A zoning certificate which is issued upon erroneous information provided by an applicant shall not bind the Town or any official thereof.”

Copar’s  application to the town of Westerly is based on continuing use, yet the town records show no indication of the continuing use as a quarry. In fact, the town records show this property zoned as RR-60 (residential use), and the tax records show that this property was taxed as residential property through 2003.

2.         The actions or inactions of Copar has visibly damaged property including homes and wells. The silica dust and damage caused by blasting has caused damages that are now a permanent part of the lives of many of the people in our community. The health effects which are not so easily or quickly seen will impact our lives and our children’s lives for the rest of our lives.

3.         The work being done by Copar Quarry has not been overseen by any agency. The filling of wetlands and polluting of ponds on the site are evident even to the untrained eye when viewing photographs of the area.

4.         Lack of clarity as to fire safety plan for the area is disturbing, especially in light of some of the Mine Safety Health Administration outstanding citations.

The flagrant disregard of town, state and federal law is evidenced in the actions pending against Copar:

1.                  A Cease and Desist order dated August of 2012 by the Town of Westerly based on expansion of the approved site size, nuisance, noise, vibration, smoke and particulate matter. The quarry continues to operate under appeal.

2.                  A Notice of Violation issued by the DEM in July 2012 regarding the following:
  • Unauthorized activities of filling and installing a culvert, clearing and filling wetlands,  filling a swamp, filling perimeter wetland, filling a forested wetland, all resulting in the unauthorized alteration of freshwater wetlands. 
  • Dumping of solid waste partially buried on the land
  • Lack of a plan to discharge stormwater associated with mining.
  • A date for a hearing has not been set yet, and Copar has made no effort to remediate these concerns.

3.         Mining Safety and Health Administration has regularly levied fines against the quarry going back several years, many of which are delinquent according to the MSHA web site.

4.         A lawsuit brought by homeowners in the area against the quarry and the Town of Westerly.

It is evident from the actions pending against Copar, that they have no regard for the Town in which they operate, the people who live in the towns that are impacted by their work, the environment, or the law. 

Inclusive of the Charlestown Town Council meeting on January 10, where Copar representatives clearly stated their intent to continue their disregard for the town, the people, and the environment, we stand united in our desire and quest to stop Copar, and request the support of the Town of Charlestown in so doing.