EAST ROCKHILL — The owner and tenant at Rockhill Quarry have agreed to end the lease.
An April 2 update letter from the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection to the township and other officials included that information, East Rockhill Township said in an April 3 quarry update posted on the township website.
The property, which is owned by Hanson Aggregates Pennsylvania and was being leased by Richard E. Pierson Materials Corp., remains under a DEP cease order following the detection of naturally occurring asbestos in December of 2018.
An April 2 Hanson letter to the DEP said the lease was being terminated.
“Therefore, Pierson will not conduct any further mining at the site and has 60 days after the lifting or expiration of Governor Wolf's March 23, 2020 Stay-at-Home Order to remove its property,” the letter said.
The township also noted the equipment removal.
“A DEP inspector is always on site while the activity is taking place. Oversized loads will have an escort vehicle. Drivers should remain alert,” the township posting said.
The quarry on N. Rockhill Road was started more than a century ago, but was not active since the early 1980s.
Attempts to restart quarrying at the site have brought protests from residents and legal battles with the township.
Last year, a federal judge ruled the property had the legal right to be used as a quarry, but sent another question in the legal battles — whether an asphalt plant was also allowed — to Bucks County Court for a decision. In March of this year, following a two day trial, Bucks County Court Judge Robert Mellon sided with the township in saying asphalt plants are not allowed at the quarry under the township zoning code. The township's zoning allows asphalt plants in the industrial zoning district. The quarry site is zoned for excavation, not for industrial use.
In February, state Sen. Steve Santarsiero, D-10; U.S. Congressman Brian Fitzpatrick, R-1; Katie Zakon of the Rockhill Environmental Preservation Alliance (REPA) citizens group; Pennridge School Board member Megan Banis-Clemens and Scott Bergey, Upper Bucks Christian School and Day Care's administrator, were speakers at a rally at the quarry asking that it be permanently closed because of the asbestos.
The Bucks County Commissioners have also called for the permanent closure.
“Since entering Congress, the asbestos issue at East Rockhill has always remained one of my top priorities and I am thrilled to hear that Hanson and R. E. Pierson Materials have agreed to terminate the lease of the Rockhill Quarry property and operation, but our work is far from over,” Fitzpatrick said in an April 3 release. “Going forward, we must work to ensure that our children and the surrounding environment will be safe from the dangers of asbestos and ensure the current and future mining permits are negated. I remain insistent on having the EPA conduct a rigorous independent geologic investigation to see the full impact mining would have within East Rockhill. This is a huge victory for the children and families in our community. Katie Zackon, REPA, and the entire Rockhill community have showed us what individuals and communities are capable of doing when we band together in solidarity behind a cause that is just and right.”
Santarsiero also applauded the end of the lease.
“The termination of Pierson's lease to mine at the quarry is a tremendous victory for the residents of East Rockhill Township, who have been tirelessly fighting to protect the health and safety of everyone in the community,” Santarsiero said in an April 3 release. “While we know that there is a strong possibility that Hanson will pursue further testing and will try to resume activities at the quarry at some point in the future, the lack of an active operator at Rockhill Quarry is a huge step in the right direction. I will continue to work with REPA, the township and our state and federal officials to prohibit mining, crushing and asphalt activities at the site. The presence of asbestos at the quarry makes those activities inherently dangerous no matter who operates there.”
Asbestos testing at the quarry remains a major concern, Zackon said in the Santarsiero release.
“REPA continues to request that PADEP require that all operations at the Rockhill Quarry permanently cease,” she said.