CASTLETON – For the third time in 18 years, the Nicklaws and their neighbors say their properties have been showered with large stones from a nearby quarry.
The last time was Friday, they said.
“I was out mowing the lawn and the bag was full so I turned it off and went to get the wheelbarrow and heard the horn, the horn and then the explosion happened shortly after,” said Larry Nicklaw. “And a few seconds after the explosion, I could hear some rocks crashing. I looked over at the lawn and there was a big chunk that blew apart. Part of it got stuck in the fence. But during this time I could hear the rocks rushing over my head. “
He said he was not hit by a stone, but the event was terrifying nonetheless.
“When it happened, when I was summarizing my thoughts, I turned around, turned my back and put my hands over my head to duck, just not knowing what was going to hit you,” he said. “It’s like watching old war films and not knowing where a rocket or hand grenade will end up next to you.”
According to Jayne Nicklaw, Larry and Jayne Nicklaw have lived at 999 Blissville Road since 1992. The first time stones from the nearby quarry landed on their property was in 2003. It happened again in 2006. She said she was down town , went to the state and even to the Vermont congressional delegation to find a solution, but nothing came of it.
Jayne Nicklaw said Monday that there were no active quarries near her property when they bought it. They were told by their agent that the operation was inactive, but over the years the quarries resumed operations and began to expand.
She claims these stones come from Camara’s quarry. A line of trees and a stone berm separate the plots, leading them to believe the stones, some of which weigh about 20 pounds, were at least 300 meters in the air.
“They would definitely kill you,” she said. “The thing is, when they hit, with such a force that they fly apart like shrapnel and stones of all kinds are blown up.”
She said that sometimes a horn sounds before an explosion, but her understanding is that the horns are for the people at the blast site. Sometimes there is a bang without a horn, she said.
The Nicklaws said Castleton Police Chief Peter Mantello stopped by after the event on Friday, took photos and collected some of the larger rocks. According to Jayne Nicklaw, the Vermont State Police were summoned after the 2006 incident, but nothing came of it.
She said her neighbors had the same problem and contacted police and state officials in vain.
She said there had been some efforts five or six years ago to regulate slate quarries more tightly through Law 250, but nothing came of it.
“I’ll find someone who will do something about it this time,” she said. “We had it. I think the people in the neighborhood have it, and I’m sure there are other people around the state near shale quarries who have had it. “
Annette Smith, executive director of Vermonters for a Clean Environment, stated in an email on Monday that most slate quarries are not regulated by Act 250, but with a few exceptions, mostly related to wetland rules.
According to Smith, the House Committee on Natural Resources, Fish and Wildlife heard testimony about slate quarries in 2015 and 2018. Smith said she spoke to some quarry operators afterwards “to evaluate if a stakeholder meeting would work to try”. to address the issues, but it became clear that the slate pits are not all on the same page so there was no point, ”she said. “Some are not going to join the club they started, so there is always talk of the bad guys they can’t control.”
She said the state mine safety and health agency can regulate safety for quarry workers, which doesn’t do much for people like the Nicklaws. The State Ministry for Public Security can regulate the storage of explosives, but has little to say here either.
Calls to Camara’s Quarry were unanswered, and neither were calls to Castleton Town Manager Mike Jones, Mantello, or the Enforcement Department of the Natural Resources Board.