Pembroke – Gene Natty spent 10 years tearing down, renovating and adding to a small 8-acre ranch on Scribner Road. It’s right across the street from where he grew up, where his parents still live.
Nati tripled the size of the home, updated the plumbing and electrical installation, and installed hardwood floors and new windows and doors. To withstand the winters of western New York, he built using his 2-foot by 10-foot Douglas fir joists and his 2-foot by 6-foot studs for wall framing.
“Law enforcement officers said the house was built so strong that a helicopter could land on the roof,” Nati said. “We really went too far so that our daughters could inherit this home for generations to come.”
Nati and his wife, Tracy, did not expect the ground on which the house was built to change. But that’s what happened on August 7th, when the foundation of the house sank and cracked, cracking the walls and ceiling, and the I-beam in the basement pushed through the foundation wall. The town declared the house uninhabitable. The insurance company dismissed the Natis homeowner’s claim, citing a clause that excluded coverage for damages related to ground motion regardless of cause.
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The Nazis believed that the explosion and dehydration at the County Rhinestone quarry, about a mile away, triggered the global change, and now blamed their negligence for causing it, along with the four municipalities. are suing. They want $1 million from the quarry and $1 million from the towns of Newstead and Pembroke, Erie and Genesee counties.
“We had a landscape plan. It cost us some money to paving the driveway. We had a final plan all together. Last year, we prepared for my retirement. I was making plans to retire,” said Natty, a road patrol deputy for the Erie County Sheriff’s Office. “This completely changed everything.”
This tectonic movement not only created a large fissure in the ground, but the fissure extended several hundred feet south from the Ngati site across Scribner Road. Long-standing concerns about blast noise, dust, groundwater levels and dump truck traffic were reiterated. It also raises questions about whether quarry owners can go ahead with plans to expand their operations beyond 100 acres.
Company denies liability
Bradley Byers, vice president of County Rhine Stone, said in an interview that the company was confident it was “not responsible” for the events at Natty’s home and Scribner Road last August. rice field.
The quarry has been operating the same way for 60 years, but “the ground faults and cracks have never opened like this before,” Byers said.
He also said the quarry expansion is critical to the long-term infrastructure needs of the region.
A Newstead town attorney denied Naty’s allegations in court documents filed last week. The other defendants have yet to respond in court.
Pembroke director Thomas Schneider Jr. declined to comment on the lawsuit, but there are multiple engineering analyzes as to whether the quarry activity is related to the damage to the Natty family and the large cracks in the ground. “Quite inconclusive,” he said. The town will close the road for about two weeks. The road was repaired and we haven’t had any problems since.
County Line conducted 45 authorized blasts from March to August 2022. Two days earlier, on 5 August, two blasts had taken place in the northwest corner of the North Quarry. In these two cases, the Nazis found cracks in the garden ground and began to notice the door was open. Their house didn’t open and close properly. The company has again received state Environmental Protection permits to remove up to 19 million gallons of water per day from the quarry in 2022. This is the same amount that was allowed in the previous five years.
Alpha Geological Services concluded that neither the blasting nor the dewatering of the limestone quarry caused any damage to Nati House or Scribner Road.
According to the Clifton Park-based geological survey company, the movement of the Earth is likely due to the upward buckling of naturally occurring bedrock known as pop-up. Such pop-ups have also been recorded elsewhere in western New York and southern Ontario, where they “formed as a result of residual stresses in the crust that have been confirmed to have existed in the region over long periods of geological time.” ‘,’ said the Alpha geologists in a report commissioned by County Rhine Stone.
Pop-ups can occur in locations unrelated to mines and quarries, and are associated with earthquake-prone areas, the report said.
Another study by McMahon & Mann Consulting Engineering and Geology also found that damage to Scribner Road made it “unlikely that ground movements were caused by direct blasts.”
However, the McMahon report did not rule out the possibility that excavation of the quarry had an effect.
Recent drilling to the north has provided opportunities for rock migration, relieving stresses in the Onondaga limestone, and “may have created voids along the northeast-to-southwest joints as the rock strained into equilibrium.” Yes,” the report said.
It also noted that lower water levels during the dry season or from the quarries could reduce the pressure on the bedrock, allowing the ‘pop-up’ movement.
McMahon’s study concluded that “the extent to which dehydration and rock removal at the quarry contributed to rock migration cannot be determined from the information available to date.”
A Michigan Tech professor also reviewed both reports and determined that the quarry operation “has no responsibility for the pop-up event.”
Wayne D. Pennington, dean, professor emeritus and research professor of geophysical engineering at the university, introduced another possible cause of the pop-up. These include logging from the woodlands behind the Natti family and placing heavy timber near the roads on the property. Months or days before the popup.
“It is possible that this increased loading immediately adjacent to the pop-up structure and the unloading from the nearby woodlands actually caused the pop-up due to increased vertical stress in the formation, which in turn caused the nearby lateral stress to increase.” increased, resulting in pop-ups,” Pennington wrote in a five-page analysis.
Pennington also acknowledged, “While this is speculation and the actual cause of the popup may never be known, the coincidental timing is nonetheless remarkable.”
“The timing of log redistribution and loading is questionable, but we have to accept that it is not definitive,” he added.
County Rhinestone is located in Akron and owns 518 acres in Erie and Genesee counties just south of Interstate 90. The company has operated under his same family of buyers since 1955, supplying stone, crushed stone and blacktop products to customers in western New York and New York. Rochester area.
The company’s mining to date has been limited to Newstead, where zoning laws have allowed drilling for many years.
But since about 2010, County Line has sought to expand its operations along the eastern side of the quarry to Pembroke, Genesee County, where it owns 75 acres. DEC, which oversees mine operations, has approved the expansion, which will extend the mine’s useful life by 20-25 years.
The county line city then offered Pembroke $1 million in incentives to change the zoning of the land from agricultural/residential to industrial to allow mining.
The 36-employee company received support from then-State Senator Michael H. Landzenhofer and local highway regulators for the expansion application.
But even before the tectonic event, some residents complained that the quarry explosion had dried up wells, cracked basement walls and shook their homes. Some homeowners are now concerned that what happened last August could happen again in other homes near the quarry, and have put the words “Please stop the county line stone quarry” on their lawns. A sign has been placed that says
Both Alpha Geological Services and McMahon & Mann recommended the installation of surveillance systems to monitor possible future movements.
Pembroke supervisor Schneider said he would like to see the results of the monitoring before considering a proposed expansion into the town by the county line.
“At multiple meetings last year, I made it very clear that the issue would be put on hold until further scrutiny or someone could say conclusively that it wasn’t the cause,” Schneider said. said.
Buyers acknowledged that stone mining was “a very disturbing business” but said his small family business was doing everything possible to limit its impact.
“We continue to operate to meet market demand and balance the nature of mining with being a good neighbor,” he said.
The cause of the rift will be identified in due course, but “we are confident it has nothing to do with the rift,” he added.
Gene Natty said she hopes her lawsuit will force more aggressive oversight of the quarry’s operations.
“States, counties and towns where quarries operate should conduct their own research into how quarries affect groundwater, air quality, home values and the potential hazards of quarry operations. It should be done “whether intentionally or unintentionally,” Nati said.