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Lafarge offers rare chance to tour its quarry

LOCKPORT – Lafarge North America, seeking to open a new quarry in Lockport, is offering the community a chance to tour its existing quarry where it blasts out tons of stone each year.

The open house is set from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. next Saturday, Aug. 6, rain or shine, at the quarry at 400 Hinman Road. It’s free, and no appointments are needed.

Visitors will be taken by bus to view the blasting sites and heavy machinery used to turn the Lockport dolomite stone into aggregate used in paving asphalt, as well as other grades of stone used for everything from ready-mix concrete to filling driveways.

Perry Galdenzi, Lafarge project manager, said it’s the first open house Lafarge has held in about 10 years.

The existing quarry yields 1.5 million to 2 million tons of stone a year, but only about a two years’ supply is left, according to operations director Tony Distefano. That estimate includes the so-called Murphy property: 9.1 acres on the north side of Hinman Road, for which the City of Lockport granted mining permission earlier this year.

To win approval from the city for the blasting, Lafarge had to prove to the satisfaction of an engineering firm hired by the city, not to mention the Common Council, that the blasting on the 9-acre site wouldn’t wreck the city’s century-old drinking water supply line from the Niagara River, which runs right past the quarry on its way to the city filtration plant on Summit Street.

Lafarge also had to pledge to create a $500,000 repair fund to pay for any blasting-relating damage to the pipeline, and also agreed to pay the city $50,000 to replace the valve that connects the city’s water system to the Niagara County Water District pipeline as an emergency water source.

The city is applying for a $3 million state grant that would cover about half the cost of replacing the last two miles of the pipeline from the river.

Distefano said the Murphy property will be cleared this winter, and mining will start there next spring.

At present, the mining operations are concentrated in the Town of Lockport portion of the quarry, in a strip of ground about a mile long and 162 feet wide, for which Lafarge won a permit from the town in December 2012.

The town’s decision to allow Lafarge to expand its quarry drew harsh criticism from residents of Hinman and Murphy roads, who had complained for years about alleged damage to their homes and foundations from blasting. Also, as many as 500 truckloads a day of stone are hauled away from the quarry by customers during the paving season.

Galdenzi said three residents have been included on a community advisory group, in hopes of winning some cooperation. “A lot of these people, their backyards are going to back up onto the new site,” Galdenzi said. “So how high do you want the berms? What trees do you want planted. What do you want it to look like?”

In recent years, Lafarge bought up most of the land on the south side of Hinman Road in the Town of Lockport, where it hopes to obtain state Department of Environmental Conservation permission to open a new 243-acre quarry. The company is awaiting DEC comments on a draft environmental impact statement.

The new quarry may last as long as 50 years, Galdenzi said. Distefano said about two years after it’s open, the primary stone crusher will be shifted to the new site, but a covered conveyor will be built over the road to move the stone to the processing equipment at the old quarry.

The existing quarry, which has been in business for more than 70 years, originally was known as Frontier Stone, but it was sold and resold a few times. Lafarge took over the 300-acre property when it acquired Redlands Quarry in 1997. The latter name still is being used by Lafarge in its filings with the DEC.

Lafarge, which also has an active quarry in Niagara Falls and a mothballed one in Royalton, is the only producer of asphalt in Niagara County. Galdenzi said it takes 38,000 tons to pave a typical mile of road. There are other quarries in neighboring counties, but Galdenzi said a Lafarge shutdown in Lockport would drive up paving costs by $2 or $3 per ton.

Although asphalt is the main product made from stone at Lafarge’s quarry, the quarry has other uses. Last week, trailers were hauling giant boulders away for use in a breakwall project in Buffalo’s Outer Harbor.

Distefano said the company is required to set aside a few cents from each ton sold for a rehabilitation fund for the exhausted quarry. Galdenzi said the company intends to create a meadow with wildlife habitat at the current quarry after it is retired. The extremely long-range plan for the not-yet-built quarry on the south side of Hinman Road is to create two artificial lakes.

email: tprohaska@buffnews.com

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