MOUNT DESERT — If Freshwater Stone is allowed to resume operations at the granite quarry it leases from Harold MacQuinn, Inc. in the village of Hall Quarry, it will be much quieter than in the past, representatives of the two companies assured the Planning Board at a public hearing Aug. 29.
Several residents of the neighborhood expressed skepticism and want Freshwater to conduct tests to determine the amount of noise generated by each piece of equipment used at the quarry. But what they ultimately want is for the Planning Board to deny the companies’ application for a quarrying license.
“A working quarry just does not belong in a residential neighborhood,” said Hall Quarry resident Chris Breedlove.
Freshwater worked the quarry from 2010 until 2016, when the town’s code enforcement officer issued a stop work order. In 2014, Freshwater and MacQuinn applied for a license to extract stone under the quarrying ordinance that the town’s voters had adopted the previous year.
Frank McGuire, an attorney representing the license applicants, said at the public hearing that the quarrying ordinance does not require that noise be kept under a certain level. He said it only requires that “the best practical means of reducing noise shall be employed, so the applicant is prepared to do that.”
To that end, McGuire said, “We have replaced since 2014 a number of pieces of equipment in the quarry and have found ways to muffle or reduce noise on others.”
He said Freshwater is committed to using a portable baffle, or acoustic barrier, to help keep noise from drilling contained.
“The drill has been identified as one of the noisier pieces of equipment in the quarry, and the proposal is to have a baffle that will travel with the drill and deflect [the noise] from the nearest property lines.”
Attorney Dan Pileggi, who represents the two couples who live nearest the quarry, questioned why Freshwater has documented the sound generated only by the granite drill and its dust collector and generator. Why hasn’t the noise produced by each piece of equipment in the quarry been tested, he asked.
“In our opinion, the mobile rock drill is the loudest piece of equipment, and we felt that was the first one we wanted to test,” said Andy Odeen, Freshwater’s general manager.
When Pileggi asked him if it is possible to quantify the noise generated by each piece of equipment in a rock quarry in Maine, Odeen said “yes.”
Asked if he plans to do that, he said, “We need to go back and look at that as a team and determine if that’s something we want to do.”
Odeen said the type of wire saw that Freshwater uses now cuts much faster and is much quieter than the one used in Hall Quarry previously.
McGuire said Freshwater plans to construct a berm between the rim of the quarry and the nearest residential properties that would be five or six feet tall and planted with evergreens.
“That will have some effect on the sound, we believe,” he said.
McGuire also said Freshwater has voluntarily proposed “not to engage in stone extraction in the months of July or August,” presumably in deference to summer residents and visitors.
Judy Aylen, who said her home is about 250 feet from the quarry, described the “excessive noise” produced by the quarry operation between 2010 and 2016.
“Although hearing loss is the most clearly measureable health hazard, noise is also liked to other physiological and psychological problems,” she said. “Noise annoys, awakens, angers and frustrates people.”
Hall Quarry resident Seth Singleton said that if the quarry work resumes, the sound won’t be confined to that neighborhood.
“This noise is going to travel a long way,” he said, including to the other side of Somes Sound and to places in Acadia National Park.
“This noise problem is not just for our vibrant, residential, mostly year-round Hall Quarry community.”
Larry Goldfarb, who owns a home on the other side of the sound, said the resumption of quarrying would affect virtually everyone in Mount Desert in some way.
“Obviously, the value of properties in Hall Quarry is going to go down,” he said. “That is ultimately going to result in tax assessments going down, which will result in tax revenue going down. And the gap is going to be made up by everybody who is not in the sound wave of the quarry; their taxes are going to go up.
“So, everybody is going to pay a monetary price for Freshwater to make a profit.”
Breedlove recalled one day a few years ago, when the quarry was operating, that she and her husband walked over to visit neighbors who live very near the quarry.
“It was very much like the times we used to go to the airport with our kids to watch the big jet planes land at [Washington] National Airport,” she said. “It was really loud. The advantage we had there was we could walk away after a few minutes; we could leave. We can’t walk away from our houses; we live there, and we’re stuck when there’s that kind of noise.”
Addressing the Freshwater officials, Breedlove asked, “What happens if, with your best possible control, best possible technology in terms of sound suppression, it is still too loud?”
Planning Board Chairman Bill Hanley replied, “I think that’s an excellent question.”
As for making any decision on the quarry license application, Hanley said, “We’re quite a ways from that.”
The public hearing on the issue of noise was continued to a date yet been determined.