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Town of Lockport demands trust fund for possible quarry damages

LOCKPORT – Lafarge North America ought to establish a trust fund to pay for damages to nearby homes caused by blasting at an expanded stone quarry, Town of Lockport Supervisor-elect Mark C. Crocker said Wednesday.

The setting was a “scoping session” hosted by the state Department of Environmental Conservation in the Best Western Hotel, to find out what concerns should be included in the company’s draft environmental impact statement.

Project manager Perry A. Galdenzi said Lafarge “will be asked to address each and every one of them to the department’s satisfaction.”

Lafarge, under the name of Redland Quarry, is seeking a state permit to open a new 243-acre quarry on the south side of Hinman Road, opposite its current quarry, which opened in 1946 and is running out of gravel.

The new quarry would keep the company going in Lockport for about 40 years based on current sales rates, Galdenzi said. Lafarge digs 1.5 million to 2 million tons a year of limestone “aggregate,” a crucial ingredient in asphalt, used by local governments and contractors for paving, and for ready-mix concrete.

Crocker said the area is not zoned for mining and the town has not committed to rezoning it. He said Lafarge has not sufficiently addressed a 2013 letter of concerns from the town, especially in regard to “noise, dust, vibrations, blasting and its effects; the examination and the economic return and impacts; and the protections of neighboring lands.”

Three years ago, when the town allowed Lafarge to start mining a strip of land on the rim of its existing quarry, there were vehement protests from residents on Hinman and Murphy roads, who claimed their homes and property were being damaged by the blasting.

“When the dynamite goes off, it moves the furniture around. It saves me the trouble of doing it,” said Al Schafer of Hinman Road. He said there are many shabby homes on that road, but Lafarge gave him material to repair a cracked patio. “I have no problem with Lafarge at all,” he said. “They’ve been wonderful.”

Tony Battaglia of Murphy Road, a member of Lafarge’s community advisory group, said he worries about his large home. “I really don’t care for my residence to turn into the housing you see on Hinman Road,” Battaglia said.

Galdenzi said the excavated dirt will be used to create two berms that would be planted with trees and shrubs around the boundaries of the new quarry.

The stone would be hauled across the road to the existing processing plant until the quarry is empty enough to accommodate a new crusher, Galdenzi said.

Ray Mack, a Lafarge employee, said if the expansion isn’t allowed, 50 jobs in Lockport and another 50 or so in the asphalt and ready-mix businesses could be lost. “We are hardworking and good people who depend on this quarry to live,” Mack said.

John Benoit, a town resident and board member of the Niagara USA Chamber, said the business community is concerned that the convenient source of asphalt might be lost if the project isn’t approved. A rejection, he said, would “drive up costs and depress the economy of this area considerably. If this expansion is not granted, it is inevitable that they will close and we will have to support the infrastructure and the jobs elsewhere.” Michael Kistner, vice president of Kistner Concrete Products, a company adjacent to the quarry, favored the Lafarge request. The company has been buying the stone from the quarry for 35 years, and it would have to truck in stone from outside the county if Lafarge closed.