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Planners, Public Ask About Fill Plan For Quarry

Expert witness faces three hours of questioning about Millington Quarry's proposal for topping off quarry after operations cease.

Millington Quarry's plans for the bringing in topsoil and other fill to prepare the quarry property for redevelopment someday faced scrutiny on Tuesday about how the plan would be carried out—and how the quarry owners will guarantee that no more contaminated soil is trucked into the facility.

The quarry's newest proposal, worked out between consultants for the township and for Millington Quarry, calls for soil to be tested at its point of origin before it could be brought in as topsoil or to fill quarried areas, testified Joseph M. Sorge, appearing for the quarry before the Planning Board on Tuesday as an environmental professional, and a site remediation professional.

"If the material comes in that doesn't meet the specs, [for standards] we reject it," Sorge, a principal with J.M. Sorge Inc. in Somerville, told the board and public.

However, much of the three-hour hearing that followed was focused on how the quarry or its representatives would guarantee that those standards actually were being met.

This week was the third hearing before the regarding a rehabilitation plan to make the steeply quarried areas within about 180 acres off Stonehouse Road suitable for some other purpose someday.

A fourth hearing has been scheduled for Jan. 31. The Planning Board is charged with deciding whether to recommend the Township Committee should give final approval to the quarry's rehabilitation, or reclamation, plan. There has long been discussion that the property would some day be developed for residential use, but a separate application would be required at that time.

The Township Committee also has the option of recommending that the quarry's proposal be modified. That process bogged down a previous post-quarrying plan that went before the governing body in 2008 — and never received final approval.

The township representatives discovery of contaminated soil coming into the property around that time sparked a lawsuit between township, and the quarry's owners and operators. The quarry's operator, Tilcon New York, has since dropped out of the lawsuit, which Millington Quarry also has put on hold pending the outcome of the hearings before the Planning Board. An attorney for the quarry, Michael Lavigne, reminded the board this week that the stay on the lawsuit has only been placed through Jan. 17 at this point.

No soil said to have been brought in since 2008

Anthony Marchetta, another attorney representing the quarry, also told the board that no new soil has been brought into the facility around October of that year.

The results of further investigation, conducted in cooperation with the state Department of Environmental Protection, showed that soil already brought in to fill in quarried areas has showed traces of polyaromatic hydrocarbon, typically associated with road asphalt, as well as traces of metals such as lead and copper that showed "very sporadic" occurence in tested areas, Sorge told the board. A few samples showed traces of mercury, he said.

Sorge outlined a proposal to consolidate any potentially contaminated soil in one 51-acre section of the property, which then would be covered with a "cap" of two or more feet of shale, with about 30 percent of that area to be covered with topsoil. About another third of the section could be submerged under described in concept at the Dec. 6 Planning Board meeting.

That would leave the remainder as "barren brown rock," the board's vice-chairman, Bert Fonde, observed.

Sorge said no residential development is ever anticipated for that area. He said the rock, which would allow water to pass through the area, is planned to prevent humans from coming into contact with the soil. He said that reclaiming that area would take about two years.

However, he said that testing on other areas of the property, including a section where vehicles were parked during the decades-long quarrying operation, have not yet been completed.

Testing procedure questioned

Sorge also faced questions about the source and testing procedure for soil to be brought in as topsoil or fill as part of the overall plan.

Questioned about a previous project on which he had worked in New York State, Sorge said that soil brought in for that downtown reclamation had relied upon soil purchased to bring into the site.

Previous testimony for the board was that Millington Quarry intends to either purchase clean fill, or to allow soil from other sites to be desposited, after the material tests as clean.

In response to questions, Sorge repeated said that he was not appearing to testify on the "economics" of where the fill was acquired.

Sorge said that either the quarry representatives or the providers of soil would test the material. In some cases, the soil would be sampled by Millington Quarry, and in other cases information would be provided by the source. Millington Quarry always would retain the option for testing, he said.

A member of the public Vann Vogel, asked Sorge whether he had asked Millington Quarry, or the quarry's previous operator, Tilcon N.Y., where previously imported soil had been placed.

Sorge said he had not done so, but relied upon topographical maps between 1998 and 2008 that showed where elevation gains had been recorded, indicating that material had been placed in those areas.

"If the quarry dug a 160-foot hole and put 160 feet of fill in it, that would not be on a topographical map, right?" Vogel asked.

Sorge said that would be correct. However, he added that native soils also had been used to fill in quarried areas, and he reiterated that his firm is not finished with an evaluation of the remainder of the site other than certain locations outlined for testing and inspections in conjunction with DEP requirements.

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