By Beth David, Editor
In a bit of an eye-opener, Acushnet Fire Chief Kevin Gallagher discovered something that prompted him to withdraw the blasting permit for PJ Keating last Thursday, 11/30, although it has since been reinstated, albeit with a key change.
Chief Gallagher said that the whole thing was prompted by the issue with the proposed expansion of the Liquefied Natural Gas facility on Peckham Road. He became aware of a new law that required any blasting company to work with the state’s Department of Public Utilities (DPU) if a pipe is within 500 feet of any blasting.
“There’s a large pipe that goes right through their property underground, and one right near the entrance,” said Chief Gallagher. “So, there’s no question that the pipes are within 500 feet.”
He said that when he checked with the state, he realized none of the paperwork had been filed, so he pulled the permit.
He said the blasting company, which is a subcontractor separate from PJK, has been “very responsive.”
The question was, however: Who is responsible for checking the integrity of those pipes underground?
The pipes are old, and anyone who lives near the quarry knows that the ground and the houses shake. Neighbors have complained of cracked concrete and other problems associated with the blasting.
At first, no one could tell him who was responsible for making sure the pipes were safe underground. It turns out that Eversource is responsible for making sure the blasting plan will not harm the pipes.
The big change to the blasting permit is that it will only be issued for 30 days at a time. It used to be a one year permit.
“I am comfortable now that we have a better system in place, by limiting approval to 30 days instead of 365,” said Chief Gallagher.
He said the issue pointed out that there needs to be much more communication among the quarry, Eversource and the town, which is the permitting authority.
“I need to know that PJ Keating and Eversource are talking before I issue a permit,” said Chief Gallagher.
The chief still has questions, though. He said there are a lot of different sized pipes that carry LNG around the PJK site, a high pressure line on South Main Street, and numerous smaller pipes that deliver gas to people’s homes.
“So, what I’ve been looking at is, what is the cumulative effect of the blasting on all this piping system,” he said.
It’s a question he still needs answered.
“You’ve got to wonder,” he mused. “If I’m feeling aches and pains at 55, and these pipes are close to 60 years old…you’ve got to wonder.”
There’s also the contention by neighbors that the blasting vibrations have gotten much worse in the last few years.
No one disputes that the hole has gotten much deeper.
“It’s a massive hole,” said Town Administrator Brian Noble. “You can see it on Google Earth.”
The company is in the process of trying to move the asphalt plant closer to the road, so that it can blast in that spot (see Neighb News 5/18/17 issue). The controversial move has brought the ongoing problems of the neighbors to the forefront, not only with the blasting, which happens about 40 times a year, but also with daily dust and silt from the digging and the trucks that are now operating around the clock.
The company was formerly Tilcon Mass., but merged with PJ Keating in 2003. In 1999 Oldcastle Materials bought PJ Keating.
A representative from PJ Keating did not return a phone call for comment on this story by press time.
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