South Wallingford Couple Says
Quarry's Noise, Dust Still a Hazard
By Bruce Edwards
September 26, 1993
South Wallingford - Elma and Phillip Lidstones'
18th century home sits smack in the middle of this
picturesque village. Homes of similar vintage dot
both sides of Route 7, and there's a generally store,
a bed and breakfast and an old white church with a
But for the Lidstones and some other residents
that tranquil scene has been shattered from time to
time by a neighbor - a limestone quarry that has
grown over the years to the point where the blasting
has allegedly damaged homes and disrupted the lives of
the nearby property owners.
The Lidstones talked of their frustration in
trying to get local, state and federal officials to
deal with the matter, but with no success. They filed
a lawsuit against the quarry's owner and its operator
in 1987 and reached an out-of-court settlement two
years ago. By they said that hasn't solved the issue.
The Lidstones' 50 acres borders the White Pigment
Corp. quarry that is owned by OMYA, Inc. of Proctor,
and operated by Shelburne Limestone Corp. which denies
that its operation is causing damage or posing health
But the Lidstones claim that the operation has
resulted in broken windows, cracked ceilings, walls
and foundations and they say that a pond on their
property has been contaminated.
They also claim that after some large blasts dust
envelopes their property, aggravating Phillip
Lidstone's asthma and causing health problems for
their stable of Appaloosa horses.
"If they're going to come in and destroy our
quality of life, they should move you someplace else"
said an angry and frustrated Elma Lidstone, who has
lived in the house since the late 1960.
The problem has gotten worse in the past several
years as the quarry has expanded, according to the
Lidstones, who say the blasting occurs on an average
of two or three times a week with some blasts worse
She said she's afraid to let her horses out to
pasture because of the dust and the fear that the
horses will be hit by fly-rock from the blasts.
Also of concern to the Lidstones is the content
of the dust. An analysis of a dust sample taken from
the outside of the Lidstones' home turned up
"potentially toxic material such as silica and lead,"
according to Dr. Jerrold L. Abraham, a pathologist at
the State University of New York in Syracuse, who
conducted the test at the request of the Lidstones.
Silica can cause silicosis which can damage the
The origin of the silica was consistent with what
might be found in other rocks (dolomite) in a quarry
while the lead was likely contained in the blasting
materials, Abraham stated in his June 2 letter to the
Lidstones. Abraham qualified his findings by stating
that they "should not be regarded as a quantitative
analysis, but a qualitative have survey."
However, dust samples taken on March 20 of this
year found no evidence of silica, according to Michael
Music, a supervisory inspector with the U.S.
Department of Labor and Mine Safety and Health
Administration. He said no testing is done for lead
and he speculated that the lead may have come from the
paint off the Lidstones' house, a possibility raised
by Dr. Abraham in his analysis.
A similar inspection of the quarry on March 3,
1990 also failed to detect the presence of silica,
The Vermont Health Department sent a letter to
the Lidstones last week requesting that they contact
the department the next time a blast causes a dust
problem. The department would then send someone to
collect a sample to be analyzed, said Robert O'Grady,
director of the environmental health division.
"We are very concerned always about any health
effects" said O'Grady, "but the situation has been
clouded because of the lack of support of the
The Lidstones also have complained to the State
Agency of Natural Resources. The agency has worked
with the company to have them blast when the
prevailing wind is not blowing in the Lidstones'
direction, said Phillip L. Etter, an air pollution
compliance specialist with the agency's Department of
The Lidstones have documented their problems by
taking photographs and videotaping the after effects
of the blasts noting dates and times. A videotape
following an August 2, 1991 blast showed a cloud of
dust slowly descending over the pasture behind the
house and barn.
Although calcium carbonate - the limestone that
is being quarried - is considered non toxic, the
quarry also produces a product that does contain
quartz, which in turn contains silica.
Elma Lidstone said Friday that the intensity of
the blasts have subsided over the past month. But she
said when there have been lulls before, the blasting
always intensified again.
She said the last blasts that caused problems
occurred on August 31 and July 26 when clouds of dust
swept over her property.
Quarry problems in Wallingford are not new.
Residents have been complaining for years about OMYA's
limestone quarry and the former Frank W. Whitcomb
Construction Corp. gravel pit which has since closed.
The limestone quarry has been in operation for
about 30 years. It was part of a Vermont Marble
Company subsidiary, White Pigment Corp.
The quarry changed hands in 1976 when OMYA's
parent company Pluess Staufer AG of Switzerland
purchased Vermont Marble. OMYA continued to operate
the quarry until it was leased to Shelburne Limestone
Over the years several lawsuits have been filed
against the quarry. In each case the lawsuit was
settled out of court.
A 1983 lawsuit was filed by Elma Lidstone's
father, Karl Chapman, who lives next door. Chapman
alleged in his suit that not only did the blasting
damage his property, but caused him health problems.
In 1988, four families sued Shelburne Limestone,
White Pigment and Frank W. Whitcomb, alleging that the
quarry operations generated "... noise, dust, rock
fragments ... and excessive traffic." The lawsuit was
settled in January.
And in their 1989 lawsuit, Theodore and Carol
Polgar of West Hill Road complained that the noise and
dust reduced the use and value of their property. The
Polgars reached an out-of-court settlement in July.
Near the Lidstones' house, the owner of a bed and
breakfast said she has had problems as well, although
not as severe as those claimed by the Lidstones and
"The biggest problem I have with them (the
quarry) is the traffic and the noise they create" said
Candice Kramer, the owner of the Green Mountain Tea
Room, referring to the large trucks that haul
limestone from the quarry to OMYA's calcium carbonate
plant in Florence.
Since the bed and breakfast is on the other side
of Route 7 and just north of the Lidstones' property,
Kramer said she hasn't had a problem with vibrations
after the blast.
A town official said that with the exception of
the Lidstones there haven't been any recent
complaints. "It has become a religion with them
fighting SLC and OMYA" said Selectman Chairman Richard
Baker who has lived in the town for 35 years said
most residents believe the quarry "is a pretty good
The quarry has other defenders as well. "I can't
say anything bad about that company," said a neighbor
of the Lidstones who spoke on condition of anonymity.
"I think people have beat this thing to death."
That's an opinion shared by Shelburne Limestone
owner Dennis Demers who blamed the lawsuits on the
desire of a few people to make some easy money off the
quarry's insurance company.
"We've got a disease is what we have. And once
one person gets paid, the disease spreads," said
Demers in a telephone interview from the company's
Essex Junction headquarters.
Demers denied that his company had caused any
damage to homes or property as alleged in the
lawsuits. He said the lawsuits were settled out of
court because it was far less expensive for the
insurance company to pay off the claims than to engage
in an expensive court battle.
He said while there was undoubtedly dust from
some blasts, the dynamiting has been done in
accordance with strict state and federal regulations
and, when possible, when the wind is not blowing in
the direction of the Lidstones' property.
Demers also said that each explosion was measured
and recorded with a seismograph for ground vibration
and air blast.
He also disputed that the dust was a health
hazard. Limestone is not only used as a filler
material in the manufacture of paper, paint and
plastics, but also is used as a filler in certain
foods, such as candy, he said.
"What we're doing is better than what was done
10 years ago, 20 years ago, 30 years ago or 40 years
ago," said Demers, whose company employs 20 workers in
South Wallingford and also operates quarries in
Shelburne and Swanton. "I do the best I can.
Unfortunately, doing the best you can do doesn't
always satisfy everyone."
But a neighbor who sued the quarry said while
Shelburne Limestone was doing a better job than OMYA,
serious problems persist. The blasting has gotten
worse lately as it has gotten closer to his home, said
the neighbor, who did not want to be identified.