AUGUSTA — Neighbors will get certified mail warning them 10 to 14 days in advance of any blasting at a West River Road pit owned by the West Gardiner-based McGee Properties LLC.

The Planning Board required that standard of notification as a condition for renewing McGee’s five-year mineral extraction license. McGee had failed to follow notice requirements for two blasts in 2010 and one in 2008 and previously was fined for those.

The 6-0 vote to renew the license and add conditions that included some pit rearranging came at the close of a series of public hearings that stretched more than four and a half hours Tuesday at City Center. It was the second meeting on the license renewal.

Most of the 30-plus people in the audience, including residents of the Grand View neighborhood which is near the McGee pit, remained until the vote.

Matt Nazar, the city’s deputy director for development services, told the Planning Board a survey of other communities showed that noise, dust, odor, and blasting complaints are typical if they are conducted near residential areas.

He also said that previous blasts at the McGee pit were well within the standard set by the U.S. Bureau of Mines.

The board capped the number of blasts that can be done at the McGee pit at 10 per year. Blasting is restricted to between 10 a.m. and 3 p.m.

Residents near the pit said their ideal would be no blasts.

“No part of blasting or expanding their operation is compatible with the neighborhood,” said Gary Leighton of Patrick Street.

Lou Craig, also of Patrick Street, said dust from the last five blasts came into the neighborhood because the company did not follow the blast plan and set off the explosions when the wind was to the south.

“It was on our decks, on our cars,” he said. “I have a pool, and it’s in my pool. If they can’t control it, shame on them. All we want to do is try to coexist and that’s hard to do when you have an operation that’s growing in size.”

Scott Snedden, of Kenneth Street, said he wanted “no blasting if the wind is coming toward the neighborhood.”

Donna Bonenfant, of West River Road, told the board she planned to request a new preblast survey, saying she had just paid for repairs to her home that she blamed on blasting at McGee’s pit.

Nazar said anyone with complaints about operations of the pit should contact the city’s code enforcement office.

About 22 acres is actively being mined at the site.

A letter read by Seth McGee noted that the firm made a mistake notifying people, but said the problem had been corrected and that notification by certified mail was unnecessary.

“Please consider us as a business trying to do the right thing,” McGee said, noting that the company has 90-plus employees.

Planning Board member A. Delaine Nye wanted McGee to install a fence along the ridge at the top of the quarry to prevent unauthorized entry. However, that was not required.

Steve McGee said an earthen berm 12 to 15 feet tall runs along the top of the quarry face. “A billy goat might go up it, but it’s lot bigger than a 4-foot chain link fence would be as an inhibitor,” he said.

He also said the company uses water trucks and sweepers to keep the paved pit road as dust-free as possible.

He said material processing is now done on the southern end of the pit to lessen the impact on the neighborhood.

A number of complaints had resulted from the operation of an asphalt plant in the pit. That plant was removed at the end of last year.

“It’s beautiful waking up in the morning now not having to smell asphalt,” Craig said.

A representative from the Gardiner-based Maine Drilling & Blasting, which does the blasting at the McGee pit, said a number of blasts were called off there when the weather proved uncooperative.

Steve McGee said his son will be taking over the operation and that he plans to eventually use some land near the Kennebec River for housing and commercial purposes.

“We don’t want to impact that neighborhood,” he said just prior to the Planning Board’s vote. “If I could pick a perfect (weather) pattern where dust didn’t go everywhere, I’d choose it.”

He said the pit eventually will be used for other purposes, including commercial and residential.

“We’re not bad people; we’re not trying to run people over,” he said.

Other conditions imposed on the license:

* Stockpiles must be relocated close to the southern border, and those giving off an odor must be used within a single season;

* Preblast notification radius was increased from 2,000 feet to 2,500 feet;

* The pit road must be frequently watered and swept to keep down the dust; if the neighbors believe there’s too much dust, they can call the company.

Betty Adams — 621-5631

[email protected]

 

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