Asbestos Discovery Halts Work at Pennsylvania Quarry

All work ceased at a suburban Philadelphia rock quarry in mid-December when workers discovered naturally-occurring asbestos at the site.

Asbestos Discovery Halts Work at Pennsylvania QuarryEmployees at the Rockhill Quarry in East Rockhill, Bucks County, Pennsylvania exposed the fibrous material during routine excavation work and immediately contacted the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) to report the find. The DEP gave strict orders on how to proceed.

“The DEP ordered all mining, rock crushing and sizing, and other related activities at the quarry cease,” DEP spokeswoman Virginia Cain told the Bucks County Courier Times. “DEP has requested a letter from the operator outlining the most recent sampling and positive asbestos analysis, what additional investigations they are going to perform to address the recent asbestos test results, and the potential for additional asbestos-form minerals to be present at the site.”

She added that “no material is thought to have left the site,” and that the work stoppage would continue until the order was rescinded by the DEP.

The quarry is owned by Hanson Aggregates Pennsylvania, a subsidiary of Heidelberg Cement, but is being leased and operated by Richard E. Pierson Materials Corp., a company that is currently working on a large construction project on the nearby Pennsylvania Turnpike.

Naturally-occurring asbestos isn’t all that common in the northeast portion of the country. Much more often, it’s found in the West and Southwest.

As a matter of fact, there have been instances in many locales in those parts of the country where the building of highways and housing developments had to be halted because of the discovery of dangerous asbestos rock.

However, Jeff Sieg, a spokesperson for Hanson Aggregates, downplayed the Rockhill Quarry find and told the newspaper that the discovery “does not indicate unsafe levels in the air, and there are no indications that the employees or surrounding community were at risk.” Hopefully, he’s correct.

The workers who discovered the asbestos seemed to be quick about identifying it and then reporting it. That allowed for minimum exposure and meant that no asbestos-containing rock made its way to the construction sites on the Pennsylvania Turnpike, where others could have been affected as well.

Sieg added that operations at the quarry could be suspended for some time and that – along with the DEP – the company is developing an operating plan that includes mitigation measures.