APRIL 21, 1997

The second regular business meeting for April was held April 21, 1997 at the Charlestown Elementary School. John B. Sauser, Chairman, Robin J. Kohn, Irene W. Ewald, Thomas F. Oeste, Esq., Surender S. Kohli, P.E., Linda M. Csete, Secretary, and those on the attached attendee list were present.

The meeting was called to order at 8:00 P.M. and the Pledge of Allegiance was recited.


Mrs. Ewald thanked Rep. Carole Rubley for providing a replacement flag for the Revolutionary War Cemetery. The new flag was raised by Sam Willow of Scout Troop 76 Den 12 of Frazer, Pa. The old flag, donated by DAR member Marian Pyle, was given to Troop 76 for proper burial.

Devault Crushed Stone - Blasting

William E. Corson and Ron Tyson of Allan B. Myers Inc., Michael Furey, Esq. and independent consultant John Ressitar from Vibratech Inc. were present to provide background and data on blasting operations at the Devault Quarry and to answer questions.

Mr. Ressitar began with a presentation outlining seismographic and air concussion results from a six week period of monitoring the blasts at three sites: the Churchill property on Mine Road, the township building at Route 29, and the Davis property. He explained that the seismic vibrations are felt prior to the sound of the blast and consequent air concussion; however, he acknowledged that at residences close to the blast this time differential wouldn’t be noticeable.

Mr. Kohn noted that the reports indicate the seismic readings (measured in Hz) to be in the low range of what’s acceptable to the state, but the air effects are very close to the upper decibel limit. Mr. Kohn stated that he believes these air concussions to be the cause of several failed rubber seals on the windows on the south side of his home, which faces the quarry. He asked if the air effect can be minimized. Mr. Ressitar responded that the air shock is harder to control than the seismic one due to the effects of temperature and wind direction. He also commented that the effect is logimetric, not linear, so that the noise level doubles every 6 decibels.

Mr. Sauser asked if there are cumulative effects from the vibrations with regard to house damage. Mr. Ressitar responded that there is no effect since they don’t exceed the fatigue limit of the various structures and materials.

Mrs. Ewald asked if weather conditions can be monitored and blasting postponed on unfavorable days. She stated that the large group attending the meeting this evening have noticed a profound difference in blasting intensity since the Allan Myers organization purchased the quarry two years ago. She said that solutions are needed and asked the quarry representatives what can be done to provide them. Mr. Ressitar stated that a balance needs to be maintained between undershooting or overshooting during the blasting operation, which both have an adverse effect.

Mr. Kohn asked if there is any log on the blasting operations that precedes the new ownership so that a comparison can be made. Mr. Corson responded that his company may not have it but the U.S. Bureau of Mines would have a record since all blasts have monitoring and reporting requirements.

Mr. Sauser opened the floor to the public for comments.

  1. Jack Kelly, 68 Dickson Drive stated that he has lived across from the quarry on Route 29 since 1987. His home has sustained damage indicated by cracks in walls including structural bearing walls. Approximately six times in the past year, his well water turned brown for a day or two following blasting. Cabinets have moved 2 inch from the wall, and floors have separated. He questioned Mr. Ressitar’s statement that the effects of blasting are not cumulative.
  2. Michele Novotni, 19 Tranquility Drive has lived in the Hollow Run Farms development since 1985. She also has cracks in walls, has had items fall off her coffee table and a window broken. Tile has come loose from the floor. She asked if the quarry knew when the independent consultant was monitoring blasts for the study and Mr. Ressitar responded that they did know, since they had to work together to know when to set up the equipment. Mr. Corson stated that he’s willing to pay for a blind study if any individual wants to arrange one privately.
  3. Roland Dickson, Dickson Drive has noticed the increased frequency of blasting since the new ownership but hasn’t experienced damage to his 250 year old house. He did note that tiles have loosened from his swimming pool which may or may not be attributed to the blasting. He did state his concern, however, in the marketability of his property and a nearby 16 acre parcel given the situation.
  4. Phil Staas, 4 Hana Lane commented that one good blast can do a lot of damage. He sees the situation as worsening in the past two years and has cracked plaster walls.
  5. Louise Cantrell-Kehoe, 2 Country Lane stated that she lived in California and compares the blasts to a 6.2 earthquake. Here main concerns are over the particulate matter in the air and whether it exceeds allowable levels. Mr. Corson responded that they monitor air quality, and while not above the limit, he acknowledged that there is sometimes a problem with the quarry suppression system. The DEP monitors them on an intermittent basis, but no reporting is required. She asked if there’s any difference in allowable levels for blasting based on the distance to residences, and Mr. Ressitar responded that the measurements are governed by the peak particle velocity regardless of distance. There is a maximum allowable effect on a residence that is the same regardless of its distance from the blasting site. He added that in Pennsylvania, mining within 300 feet of a property line is not permitted, but otherwise there are no state or federal restrictions. She also questioned Mr. Ressitar’s earlier statement that blasting has no cumulative effect. She asked what the company would do if readings were taken at her property and were found to exceed the limits. Mr. Corson responded that they would change their procedure and that for the past six months they have been studying methods of minimizing the blasting effects. Ms. Cantrell-Kehoe noted that she has concerns over the windows shattering in her family room during a blast, a potentially deadly situation.
  6. Joe O’Brien, 1104 Tinkerhill Lane compared the blasts to a 4.2 earthquake he experienced 23 years ago in the township. He has been working at the Marlo residence at 1064 Tinkerhill Lane and has experienced blasts that shake the glass. He’s noticed cracks at both that location and his own home.
  7. Helen O’Brien stated that she’s asked the quarry representatives to add her to the list of people to be notified of the blasting before it takes place and they haven’t done so. Mr. Corson took down information from her so that this could be remedied.
  8. Marian Macchione, 1132 Tinkerhill Lane stated that in the early 1990’s she had all the plastering repaired in her 1975 house, but since that time, many new cracks have appeared.
  9. Liz Willow, 176 Sycamore Lane, asked for the phone number at the quarry where residents could call for information or to register complaints, and Mr. Corson provided it.
  10. Christiene Aubrey, 1007 Tinkerhill Lane stated that she recently had to have her chimney repaired, which had collapsed internally and caused dust to settle throughout the house and could have potentially caused a lethal situation as it vents the heater and exhaust was not escaping the house properly. Two out of three insurance agents who examined the chimney concluded that it was due to the quarry blasting and therefore covered the repair cost. She stated that on one occasion, a white fog developed after a blast that reduced visibility out of her window to a few feet. She stated that at one time a plumber was in her basement to do some repair and walked off the job when a blast took place, refusing to return.
  11. Leila White, 1007 Tinkerhill Lane stated that she’s lived at this address since the house was built in 1968. Cracks have appeared in the past few years. She asked if smaller blasts are undertaken when the quarry knows it is being monitored. Mr. Ressitar responded that all blasts within the 6 week period had been monitored.
  12. Delores Kelly, 1123 Tinkerhill Lane, stated her concern over their well. She said they have experienced cracks in the walls. She also requested that the Quarry people call her before blasting.
  13. William Stewart, 2045 Union Hill Road, stated that his house was built in 1775 with an addition in 1975 and he perceives no damage to it or to his swimming pool. He said the quarry is a good neighbor and they are always called before blasting takes place. He acknowledged that both frequency and intensity of blasts have increased in the past two years and that he wishes they would refrain on holidays such as Good Friday or Christmas Eve. He sees the dust as a problem and on two or three occasions, said it was so thick he couldn’t see his back fence from his house. He commented that they object more to the noise from the asphalt plant than to the blasting at the quarry. Mr. Corson responded that the noise level at the asphalt plant should be greatly reduced since new measures have been put in place beginning April 14th. The noise caused from the back up alarms on the trucks, which creates incessant beeping, has yet to be resolved since they must abide by OSHA guidelines in this matter. As to the dust problem, Mr. Corson stated that they have been working on a resolution to it.
  14. Max Richter, 2154 Union Hill Road, stated that he’s lived in his house since it was built in 1982. He said blasting has worsened recently, and he has experienced wall cracking and nail pops.
  15. Al and Lisa McGowan, 288 Whitehorse Road asked if there are any restrictions as to the frequency of blasting. She also asked how much longer the quarry would be expected to operate at this rate of blasting. Mr. Corson responded that there are no restrictions on frequency, and that the quarry will operate into the indefinite future at its present rate. Al McGowan stated that their pool drain failed following a blast this past year. He asked if Mr. Ressitar believed that objects in his home could fall off their shelves due to a blast, and Mr. Ressitar responded that he believed this to be possible.
  16. Ted Werntz, 2090 Union Hill Road stated that he’d like to see completely independent testing of the blasts, a true blind study. Mr. Ressitar responded that it would be possible to set up equipment on a long term basis in someone’s home without notifying the quarry of when the study would begin or end in order to provide independent results. Mr. Corson offered to pay for a one month study of this type.
  17. Gerri Weits, State Road, asked why her residence wasn’t monitored as she is one of the closest to the quarry. Mr. Ressitar stated that by law they must monitor the closest property to the blast site, and this is the Stewart residence, not theirs. Mrs. Weits said there are cracks in the family room walls and in the basement floor of her home. Robert Weits complained of receiving no cooperation from Mr. Corson when he’s called. He said they’ve experienced a great deal of dust, windows loosened from their seals, and the failure of a geothermal well. He also has experienced a leaky gas tank in his boat that his maintenance people can’t explain. He added that the backup beeping from the asphalt plant is extremely irritating.
  18. A resident on Union Hill Road who has lived in his house for 33 years stated that he was accustomed to the blasting and vibrations but that it has gotten considerably worse in the past few years. He commented that his cats react in panic to the blasts when they never used to do so. He questioned the reasonableness of limits set by bureaucrats and commented that the blasts are like earthquakes.
  19. Saul Kun, 4339 Whitehorse Road stated that his spring fed well has gone dry during one of the wettest years on record and suspects that the blasting is responsible. He also knows of at least one other resident whose well went dry. He stated his concern, aside from the seismic and air effects, of air and water pollution. He requested that the quarry cease its operations for 45 days to allow the EPA an opportunity to investigate. Mr. Corson responded that this would not be possible. Mr. Kun then requested that the township’s legal counsel investigate the possibility of obtaining a restraining order to prevent the quarry from operating while an investigation is undertaken. Mr. Oeste stated that he’s not prepared to respond at this time without further investigation. The Board directed Mr. Oeste to prepare a memo on the health, safety and welfare issues they should be aware of with respect to the quarry blasting.
  20. Jean Theiss, Tinkerhill Lane, asked how much water is pumped during a blast, and Mr. Corson responded that they don’t operate with water the way a limestone quarry such as the Warner Quarry does. Mrs. Theiss stated that she has wall cracks, nail pops and windows that have settled at her home. White ash is visible for days after a blast.
  21. Bob Theiss, Tinkerhill Lane stated his surprise that recording equipment isn’t set up at specific quadrants, perhaps at 8 or 9 points, for each blast to obtain a more complete evaluation. Mr. Corson responded that at least one point is monitored for each blast.
  22. A resident commented that the blasts have become more severe recently and asked if the blasting method could be changed. Mr. Corson responded that they’re always looking for ways to do so. Mr. Ressitar stated that the properties of those individuals with the most severe effects need to be studied for anomalies.
  23. Stephen Winckelman, Howells Road, asked if a whistle is blown before a blast as it is at other quarries. Mr. Corson responded that both a 3 minute and one minute blast are given. Mr. Winckelman asked why a particular blast three weeks ago was so intense, and Mr. Tyson responded that they would have to investigate.
  24. Mike Allen, Howells Road, asked if the company is practicing “best technology.” Mr. Corson responded that they are, and outlined some of their experience in the industry. Mr. Allen asked if different powder formulations had been tried. Mr. Corson answered that they have tried a variety of formulations, both gel and powder, have altered blasting patterns, pounds per delay and sequence of the charges.
  25. Dennis Marlo, 1064 Tinkerhill Lane, commented that one particular blast was worse than a 4.7 earthquake he experienced in California. He said their property was monitored three times, two of which were within the limits, and one for which the equipment failed. He notes a dramatic change in intensity in the past two years. Blasting occurs more frequently, often twice a week and sometimes even twice in one day. He has noticed wall cracks.
  26. Bob Novotni, 19 Tranquility Drive, stated that two years ago their patio door shattered and questioned whether it could have been caused by blasting. There are cracks in his chimney cinder block as well as in the basement. He commented that dust is detrimental to car paint. He asked about the effect of blasting on the Mobil pipeline running under Route 29. Mrs. Ewald responded that the pipeline was investigated six years ago after a leak was noticed near the quarry and repairs were then undertaken. The pipeline pressure is routinely monitored as well for indications of problems. Repairs and pipe replacements are performed in sections. Mr. Novotni asked if gas can go into the ground water if a pipe breaks and whether blasting could cause a break. Mrs. Ewald responded affirmatively to both questions. Mr. Novotni asked if a seismic monitor could be placed at the elementary school.
  27. Kevin Kuhn, 4162 Whitehorse Road, asked for the positions of the three monitors, and asked why the Stewarts’ property was one of them when they acknowledge they feel little effect from the blasting. Mr. Corson responded that they must monitor at the Stewarts’ by law as it’s the closest property to the blasting. He requested that approximately 25 monitors be placed at locations in the township at the direction of the township engineer for a period of one year in order to get complete and accurate test results. Mr. Kohli stated that after obtaining everyone’s name and address from the meeting, a list could be created for this purpose. He doubts whether 25 units would actually be needed, that proper results could be obtained with fewer. He commented that the study that had just been undertaken by Vibratech Inc. was done so in order to check that the blasts are in the acceptable range and to check the calibrations of the quarry’s own monitoring equipment, which were found to be accurate. Mr. Corson stated that he’s willing to work with Mr. Kohli on further independent testing. Mr. Sauser agreed that a more scientific study is needed and can be undertaken by plotting the pattern of complaints and conducting a blind study.
  28. Gail Stewart, 2045 Union Hill Road, suggested that while the blasting may be within legal limits, some further restraint should be exercised. Mr. Kohn agreed that the legal limits may not be the practical limits.
  29. Janet Baldwin, 2106 Bodine Road, asked if barometric pressure affects the air concussions from blasting, and can the quarry take this into account when planning to blast. Mr. Corson responded that the barometric pressure does have an effect, and that while they can attempt to work with the weather, they reach a point in setting up for a blast where they’re committed to proceed. Sometimes the weather changes unexpectedly and the blasting must go on as scheduled. He agreed to attempt to work more closely with the weather predictions.

Mr. Sauser requested that Mr. Corson cooperate with Mr. Kohli in plotting all the properties of people who have registered a complaint and to conduct a study with a reasonable amount of equipment units in order to collect more complete data. Mr. Corson stated that he’ll have to look into the costs of such an undertaking. Mr. Sauser requested that a monthly report be provided to the township on the quarry’s activities and Mr. Corson agreed. Mrs. Ewald asked Mr. Corson if he saw the problem differently after hearing from the residents, and he responded that he did. He acknowledged that an acceptable plan is needed and agreed to work with Mr. Kohli to try to develop a program for the study by the May 19th Supervisors’ meeting.

Mrs. Ewald urged residents to call the township office at any time with their comments or complaints on this issue. She told Mr. Corson that she can make maps available to him showing underground mines below Mine and Tinkerhill Lanes which may be exacerbating the problem for those residents.

PRD Hearing - Lot 26 Charlestown Hunt

Mr. Sauser stated that the hearing record was left open in order to obtain a response from the Valley Forge Sewer Authority, since the driveway to be constructed would encroach on a VFSA easement. He spoke with Bob Dwyer of Realen Homes earlier today and Mr. Dwyer stated that a draft agreement is being circulated at the VFSA and requested that the Board table their decision until an agreement is reached.

Camp Cadet Donation

Mr. Sauser stated that donations of $400.00 have been given to the past to the State Police’s Camp Cadet program. He noted that $1,000.00 of the $2,000.00 budget for donations has already been spent. Mrs. Ewald suggested that the $1,000.00 donation to Green Valleys Association be moved to the budget line item for planning, since the township has received a valuable planning tool from the Green Valleys Association in the form of their Sustainable Watershed Management Study. Mr. Kohn agreed that this could be considered as a planning expense. Mrs. Ewald moved to approve a $400.00 donation to Camp Cadet. Mr. Kohn seconded. Mr. Sauser called for discussion, questioning if any Charlestown youths have participated in the program. He suggested that the Board take a more active role in promoting it in the community, and the Board was in agreement. The motion was unanimously approved to donate $400.00 to Camp Cadet.

Spring Road Clean Up

Mr. Sauser stated that he spoke to Nature Center Director Tom Pascocello about becoming involved in the spring road clean up, and while he indicated their willingness to participate, it appeared that they preferred not to lead the activity. Mr. Kohn suggested that since there’s a surplus in the road maintenance budget at this point in the year, the road contractor could be utilized in some fashion. Mrs. Ewald explained that in the past, one of the trash haulers donated bags and their services to pick up trash bagged by groups such as the high school ecology club, eagle scouts, and others. Charlestown Townwatch closed the road while clean up was undertaken. Mr. Sauser stated that he’ll give the matter some thought and develop a plan by the next meeting.

Spring Road Tour

The Spring Road Tour was scheduled for May 4th beginning at 4:00 P.M. to start at the Elementary School subject to the Roadmaster’s availability.

Mrs. Ewald said she’d like to have the paving work bid separately from the road contract now in place and the other board members agreed. As was determined last year, Blackberry Road and a portion of Pickering Road need to be paved. The Board requested that Mr. Kohli prepare the cost estimate and bid specifications by the May 5th meeting.

Historical Preservation Ordinance Draft

Mr. Sauser stated that the draft looks good but doesn’t solve the problems in the existing H.A.R.B. ordinance. Mr. Oeste stated that that ordinance would need to be amended in concert with this new ordinance which would effectively combine the Historical Commisison and Historical & Architectural Review Boards.

Mrs. Ewald stated that she’d like to have the Planning Commission review this draft and provide their comments to the Board. Mr. Sauser stated that he didn’t think this is necessary but agreed to send it to the Planning Commission and requested that the solicitor review it simultaneously. Mr. Oeste was also asked to draft an amendment to the existing H.A.R.B. ordinance.

Other Business:

Escrow Release #3 Sproule Development Corporation

Mrs. Ewald moved to approve escrow release #3 for the Sproule Development Corp. in the amount of $6,396.50. Mr. Kohn seconded and all were in favor.

Agricultural Security District

The Board approved the draft letter written by Janet Baldwin to be sent to residents with properties of 10 acres or more informing them of Charlestown’s interest in forming an Agricultural Security District and inviting them to a meeting on the subject.

Stormwater Management Basins - Charlestown Brae

Mrs. Ewald referred to Mr. Oeste’s letter of April 3rd to the Supervisors regarding correspondence from the attorney of “Whitehorse at Charlestown” buyers who questioned the term maintenance definition in the Declaration of Easements, Covenants, Conditions and Restrictions for the stormwater management basin on their lot. Mr. Oeste stated that the issue is sufficiently clear in the Declarations and Covenants and doesn’t believe the Township should make any changes. Mr. Sauser stated that after talking with Mike Honan at Rouse Chamberlin, Rouse would resolve the matter with the prospective property owners.

Upcoming Agenda Items

Mr. Sauser reviewed upcoming agenda items including the Somerset Conditional Use hearing scheduled for May 5th and the Preliminary/Final Plan for the Zeigler Subdivision, also on the May 5th agenda.

Citizen’s Forum - Non-Agenda Items

Kevin Kuhn asked if the H.A.R.B. must follow state guidelines and Mr. Sauser responded that it does, and that these guidelines are incorporated into the existing ordinance. The ordinance revisions being discussed are of a minor nature that would serve to simplify and clarify the requirements.

Mr. Kuhn asked if anything was done with his request for a four way stop sign at Whitehorse & Union Hill Roads. Mrs. Ewald responded that PennDOT is preparing to undertake the preliminary study on the matter.

Mr. Kuhn asked if a record is being kept of the cost of defending the Altemose case, and the Secretary responded that it is and provided the figure. In response to Mr. Kuhn’s question, Mr. Oeste stated that any attempt to seek reimbursement of these funds would have to wait for the Commonwealth Court decision in the matter.

Saul Kun thanked the Board for their defense in the Altemose challenge to the Zoning Amendment.


Mrs. Ewald moved to adjourn and Mr. Kohn seconded. The meeting was adjourned at 11:55 P.M.