York Residents 'Kind Of Used To' Blasts From Quarries

Jun 21, 2017

For about three decades, Richard and Laceda Waring have lived in a rancher in York, a couple of blocks away from a limestone quarry. Every so often, the earth rumbles, and the house shakes.

"Well, there's our daily blast," they'll say.

It's happened when they eat at a local diner nearby in West Manchester Township, surprising the other patrons.

"Sometimes I think we're going to go right down through the floor," Laceda Waring said with a laugh.

For homes and businesses close to mining operations, the periodic blasting, noise and dust have become a part of life. Three active quarries that blast rock exist just outside of York in West Manchester Township. Crews blast to remove the rock, which is used for a variety of products.

About 14 quarries operate in York County, and six of them use explosives.

The material mined can be used for anti-skid on roads in winter, lime to help neutralize soil, and refractory bricks, which can withstand high temperatures and are used for furnace lining, said Stephen Shank, a senior geology scientist with the Pennsylvania Geological Survey.

The noise and rumble from a blast can be startling. Derrick Dixon, who lives on the corner of Pennsylvania and Belvidere avenues in York, said he was alarmed at first, until his girlfriend explained there's a quarry nearby.

"Now I've gotten kind of used to it," he said.

The blasts can be felt up to half a mile away, said Jeri Jones, of Jones Geological Services in Spring Grove. It depends on where crews are working whether nearby residents feel it.

Three quarries in West Manchester Township use explosives to blast the rock, which requires permits, according to the state Department of Environmental Protection. They are:

  • Roosevelt Quarry off of Roosevelt Avenue, owned by York Building Products Company Inc.
  • Ensminger & Williams Quarry just south of Route 462, owned by Kinsley Construction Inc.
  • York Quarry off of South Salem Church Road, owned by Magnesita Refractories Company.

DEP has not received any complaints, and the three are in compliance with regulations, spokesman John Repetz said. Residents who live near the quarries may feel a vibration in the ground or an air blast.

Attempts to interview representatives from the three sites were unsuccessful.

The blasting is done to knock a wall down, Jones said. Fifty-foot shelves or levels are created in the quarry. "It's like a set of steps being built."

Local quarries install seismographs at the closest homes or business -- or multiple places -- to record the shock waves from the blast, Jones said. That way, if a nearby resident complains about damage, the quarries can check to see the strength of the blast.

Residents who live along Canary Circle near the Ensminger & Williams Quarry say they are used to the operation next door.

Samantha Hess has lived there since she was 5. When she was a kid, she would climb a nearby hill and look into the quarry, even though she wasn't supposed to. She was amazed at the size of the hole. The quarry has permits to mine 562 acres. That's bigger than the Roosevelt Quarry's 265 acres, but smaller than Magnesita's York Quarry with nearly 1,032 acres.

"They usually don't disturb us too much," she said. "Every once in a while, you'll hear a big, loud noise, and sometimes the stuff on the walls will shake. It just depends on how bad it is, but that's very, very rare anymore. It used to be a lot more often."

Sometimes her 10-year-old son will ask: What was that? She tells him, it's fine. It's just the quarry.

Another neighbor, Chris Sheridan, said it rumbles when the quarry blasts, and "sometimes your windows shake."

She joked that if they ever have an earthquake, they won't know the difference.

Residents who live on Lawson Court near Magnesita's York Quarry describe a similar situation.

Nathan Martin, who has lived in the mobile home community since 1995, feels the rumbles. "I've heard it rattle the dishes a little bit."

Kevin Cross, who lives along Roosevelt Avenue in York, said he doesn't hear the blasting, but he has experienced "a lot of dust." He was wondering if the trucks could use another entrance and exit.

The Warings, who live nearby, said there was a lot of dust when they moved in, but it's a lot better than it used to be.

Cross said the quarry provides jobs for the area, so that's a good thing.

"We definitely need jobs, especially around here," he said.

What are the minerals used for?

The "Directory of Nonfuel-Mineral Producers in Pennsylvania," compiled by John H. Barnes of the Pennsylvania Geological Survey, details what the materials coming out of quarries is being used for.

Here is a sample locally:

Ensminger & Williams Quarry: Coarse aggregate, fine aggregate, lime, poultry grit, anti-skid, fillers for whiting, plastics, rubber, ceramics, health products and construction, landfill covers, landfill liners and backfill

Magnesita Refractories Company's York Quarry: Pelletized lime, bedding lime, clay, refractory bricks and fluxstone

Roosevelt Quarry: Coarse aggregate, fine aggregate and anti-skid.

Other quarries that use explosives

Here are the three other York County quarries that use explosives:

  • Wrightsville Quarry
  • Oldcastle Thomasville Quarry
  • Thomasville Quarry

Source: Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection