Quarry's Trustworthiness Questioned By Residents
Last night of public comment includes disputed documents about previous 'dump' fees advertised for quarry.
Following more than a year of Planning Board hearings, final public comments were presented Tuesday on the Millington Quarry's proposal to "reclaim" the quarry for future residential use, part of which involves bringing in soil to prepare the land for anticipated development.
But those speakers from the public objected to the approval of any plan that would bring in additional fill, especially soil that would come from sources paying to dispose of it at the quarry property off Stonehouse Road.
Referring to the past acceptance of soil at the facility which in some cases turned out to include contamination, resident Carol Bianchi told the Planning Board, "Ignoring history guarantees it will repeat itself."
The night began when even the Bernards Planning Board's attorney expressed a hope that Tuesday's meeting would be the end of all testimony on the quarry's proposal to transform the facility into usable land once all quarrying stops.
That was not to be. Along with requests by the Planning Board for additional materials and answers to questions asked at past hearings, the board's own professionals are due to comment at the next meeting on the quarry's plans for the future of the 180-acre property off Stonehouse Road.
That next meeting is scheduled for 7:30 p.m. Jan. 31, Planning Board Secretary Fran Florio said.
After the comments by professionals, the board has expressed the intention of beginning its own deliberations on whether to recommend that the Bernards Township Committee give final approval to the quarry's so-called rehabilitation plan. That plan calls for creation of a 50-acre lake and trucking in about 420,000 cubic yards of fill to create a "meadow area" that could someday house residential development on two-acre lots.
However, public comment on the quarry's proposal — offered on Tuesday night by two residents who were regular attendees at the previous sessions on the quarry's application — has now officially ended.
The first of those speakers was Bianchi, a Planning Board member who has stepped down of the quarry case because of her longstanding involvement with a citizens group that has called for stringent testing and follow-up of contaminated soil as "fill" on the quarry site for a number of years prior to 2008.
At that time, a legal dispute between the quarry and township led to the halt of any additional fill being brought into the quarry since that time. An attorney representing the quarry, Michael Lavigne, said as at past hearings that the quarry owner hopes that the acceptance of a plan for closing the quarry would result in the end of all litigation between the township and Millington Quarry.
Bianchi on Tuesday presented the board with documents from before the halt of filling arriving in trucks before 2008, including a list of "dump prices" from previous years, that she said showed the quarry made a profit from accepting fill from throughout the tri-state area. She also presented an agreement she said showed that the quarry was among other materials willing to accept "concrete rubble." She said that agreement was signed by the president of Millington Quarry.
One of the documents she presented publicly was a list of dumping fees she said had been circulated to area landscapers which included a price of $80 per truckload for the acceptance of concrete fill.
Addressing the board, Lavigne objected to submission of the documents on the basis that he said they were both irrelevant and hearsay rather than evidence.
Lavigne said that the documents were from an era during which Tilcon New York, a separate company, controlled the quarrying operation.
"I am not willing to say MQI (Millington Quarry) made a mistake," Lavigne said. "They got burned by Tilcon." He said Millington Quarry now is involved in separate litigation with Tilcon, and also now has been left with the need to spend hundreds of thousands of dollars to carry through on a plan to isolate and cap soil on the property that has showed some level of contamination.
But Bianchi displayed signatures on the documents that she said came from MQI representatives.
Bianchi also referred to testimony from one of her own witnesses earlier during the hearings who said that allowing sources to pay to dump materials would result in "dirty" fill coming in again.
Bianchi ended her comments by asking the Planning Board to recommend that the quarry come back with a rehabilitation plan that would require no more fill coming on the property other than was already is available on the property.
The final speaker from the public, Vann Vogel, also disputed the amount of soil that the quarry's rehabilitation plan would have being trucked to the site in future years.
"Soil imported should be a bare minimum," he said.
Bringing in that fill can be avoided if the plan is not looked at as a development proposal, Vogel said.
Lavigne had begun last November's hearings by specifying that the proposal before the Planning Board is not a development plan.
If the land doesn't have to be prepared for actual development, then less soil would be needed at this time, Vogel reasoned.
Vogel also said the proposed protections put in place for testing to protect soil quality. "Self-certification, given the history of the quarry, simply is not sufficient," he said.
Vogel also asked that the plan wait until the state Department of Environmental Protection finish its review in the search for possible additional contamination and questioned what had gone into a so-called deep hole created by quarrying.
Vogel and Bianchi both objected to a return of large trucks on township roads, possibly 120 to 150 per day, to bring additional soil onto the property.
Nevertheless, Vogel said he would like to see a plan in place for the "gorgeous piece of land" that is the quarry.
Lavigne said that township ordinance requires the quarry to present an updated rehabilitation plan for approval once every three years. The last plan, in 2008, was passed along by the Planning Board but was never given final approval by the Township Committee, as required.
Lavigne also asked Vogel whether he understood the difference between actual contamination and the state DEP's strict testing for all sorts of materials, which quarry officals have said includes any asphalt from many decades of operations on a facility on which only a small amount of mining now takes place.
Lavigne also said some of the additional materials requrested by the board already was provided.