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2020 News

Commissioners Call on Commonwealth to Shut Down Rockhill Quarry

February 19, 2020

Contact: Larry R. King, 215-348-6413, lrking@buckscounty.org

The Bucks County Commissioners, citing health risks to the public from asbestos exposure, today sent a letter to the Pennsylvania Departments of Health and Environmental Protection urging them to push for permanent closure of the Rockhill Quarry in East Rockhill Township.

A letter to Pennsylvania Departments of Health and Environmental Protection urging them to push for permanent closure of the Rockhill Quarry in East Rockhill Township.“This quarry, which saw minimal, if any, operations for decades, presents too great of a health risk to the surrounding community due to the presence of naturally occurring asbestos,” said the letter, signed by all three commissioners: Chair Diane M. Ellis-Marseglia, Vice Chair Bob Harvie and Gene DiGirolamo.

The commissioners' letter calls on Secretary of Health Dr. Rachel Levine and Secretary of Environmental Protection Patrick McDonnell “to use the powers of your offices to permanently close the operations” the quarry, located north of the Pennridge Airport in East Rockhill.

After lying largely inactive since the early 1980s, the quarry resumed operations in December 2017. The resumption was prompted by a $224 million contract to provide rock for reconstruction of a seven-mile section of the Pennsylvania Turnpike’s Northeast Extension.

Almost a year later, in early December 2018, the work halted after the quarry discovered asbestos on the site. The quarry notified the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection, which ordered the work ceased until investigations into the amount of asbestos present could be completed. That order remains in effect.

On Feb. 7, a high-ranking Health Department official sent a letter to the Rockhill Environmental Preservation Alliance stating that naturally occurring asbestos should “be avoided and left alone.” The letter from Deputy Health Secretary Raphael Barishansky further says that any “mechanized activity or kinetic energy that makes physical contact with geologic formations that contain asbestos” will increase the presence of airborne asbestos fibers, the commissioners noted. 

The Rockhill Quarry“While the letter from Deputy Secretary Barishansky goes on to state that more data is needed to determine the true risks to workers at the quarry and citizens in the surrounding community, we feel that the risk to both of these populations is too great to allow operations at the quarry to continue,” the commissioners’ letter states. “These risks, which are well-known and established, are so serious that we feel the Commonwealth must take action and permanently prohibit operations at the Rockhill Quarry.”

The commissioners’ public stance is in line with that of a number of public officials from different political parties, including U.S. Rep. Brian Fitzpatrick and state Sen. Steve Santarsiero.

Fitzpatrick and Santarsiero have scheduled a news conference for 11 a.m. Friday at 2055 N. Rockhill Road, outside the quarry entrance, to further address the issue.