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

tall steeple.

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

than others.

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,

Music said.

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

Lidstones' claims."

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

Environmental Conservation.

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

in 1985.

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

W. Baker.

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.