AUGUSTA — A lawsuit filed by the city against Steve McGee Construction alleging a May blast in a gravel pit exceeded allowable standards seeks to revoke the Gardiner business’s permit to blast and extract rock in Augusta.

The blast, in a West River Road pit and quarry operation that over the last several years has been the subject of multiple disputes involving McGee Construction, the city and residents of the nearby Grandview neighborhood, occurred May 13.

The city’s lawsuit alleges the blast was too large and exceeded standards of the Augusta Blasting Ordinance. The court filing states the blast exceeded both the maximum peak sound pressure limit of 133 decibels and the maximum ground vibration standard, measured in peak particle velocity, of 0.75 inches per second between 500 and 5,000 feet from the blast.

Data recorders from the blast, according to Stephen Langsdorf, the city’s attorney, indicated the blast created a shock wave of 135.5 decibels and, in one location, the peak particle velocity hit 1.04 inches per second, and 0.82 inches per second and 0.79 per second in another location, all above the 0.75 per second maximum.

Langsdorf said vibrations over that level can cause drywall to crack, and shock waves of over 135 decibels can damage buildings.

He said he was not aware of any damage to neighbors’ homes or other buildings in the area resulting from the blast.

Gregory Farris, Steve McGee Construction’s attorney, denies the blast exceeded the city’s standards.

“Steve McGee and its contractor Maine Drilling and Blasting did not violate either standard,” Farris said. “Any abnormal readings were due to monitoring equipment issues and not caused by the blast. The blast complied with the sound pressure and vibration standards set by the city, and no damage was done as a result.”

The lawsuit filed at the Capital Judicial Center seeks an injunction preventing McGee Construction from using the property in violation of the Augusta Blasting Code, revocation of its permit to conduct blasting and mineral extraction, an unspecified fine and reimbursement of the city’s attorney’s fees and costs.

Langsdorf noted the city has had two previous consent agreements with McGee, for failure to notify neighboring property owners properly in advance of blasts in 2008 and 2011.

The prior consent agreements stated, the city’s lawsuit says, “In the event that McGee is in violation of blasting or any related ordinances in the future, the city will take further action, including but not limited to the possibility of rescinding licenses for the operation of McGee Quarry.”

“We will let the judge determine the appropriate penalty, including the possibility of revoking all licenses in the city,” Langsdorf said. “The frequency of conflict with the neighborhood is an important factor in determining the appropriate penalty. We have had two previous consent agreements, and McGee paid $1,500 for the first and $3,000 for the second. The (City) Council preferred here to let the court decide the appropriate penalty for a third violation.”

Farris said company owner Steve McGee “works hard to be a good neighbor and in strictly adhering to all standards.”

“The city did not even do us the courtesy of a call, or sit down, but just filed another lawsuit against a taxpaying, hardworking businessman,” Farris said.

Langsdorf said the blast was a scheduled quarry blast and was observed by the city. He said it was similar to other blasts but exceeded standards set in the ordinance, based on measurements provided by the blasting company, which was Gardiner-based Maine Drilling and Blasting.

He said the sound frequency measured is not audible to human ears but does rattle doors and windows.

Farris’ response to the lawsuit also includes a “third-party complaint” provision that notes if a fact-finder should conclude blasting standards were not met, Maine Drilling and Blasting should contribute to paying losses, damages, fines and other costs, because its contract with McGee gives it the duty to perform blasting in strict compliance with the local blasting ordinance.

Langsdorf said it is a significant legal question whether such third-party claims are permissible in the case. He said under the city ordinance, complying with the standards is the responsibility of the licensee, which is McGee Construction.

Keith Edwards — 621-5647

[email protected]

Twitter: @kedwardskj