The Verona Board of Adjustment once again heard testimony on a proposal to develop two lots near Everett Field and, last night, the presentation focused on the blasting that might have to be done at the site.
Alan Trembulak, the lawyer for Sparta-based Developer DMH2 LLC, presented as an expert witness John Joseph, the founder of a similarly named Ringwood, N.J. company that has been doing blasting work in New Jersey and New York for 50 years. Joseph detailed the typical blasting process and said that the work at the Verona site might require 90 days of work, with five to seven small blasts per day to clear the site. DMH2 is proposing to build 7,000 square feet of commercial space topped by 14 two-bedroom apartments.
Joseph took more than an hour to explain the work. He said that blasting companies typically begin by conducting a survey of nearby properties to document pre-existing cracks and building fatigue. New Jersey requires both blasting companies and blast operators to be licensed and that a seismograph be placed at the closest building to monitor noise and vibrations from the work. Before charges are detonated, blasting companies lay heavy rubber mats over the job site to prevent the exploded rocks from spraying onto neighboring properties. (The video below shows how mats are used.) Joseph also said that fines for improper work start at $5,000. “The penalties are too strong to ignore,” he cautioned. Joseph also said that state regulations permit blasting from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. every day except Sunday.
Trembulak asked his witness if there were any particular concerns about the Verona job site. Joseph said that he had conducted a preliminary study and has told DMH2 that the work would be feasible. “It can be accomplished, but it has to be done very gently as you get close to the house,” he said. A house owned by Mary Purcell at 15 Westview Road is set back far from the road and the blasting could go no closer than nine to 10 feet from the property line. The rest of the rock would be removed by drilling.
Roughly two dozen Verona residents attended the meeting, most from Westview Road and Montclair Avenue, which abut the site and they voiced concerns about the process. Jessica Pearson asked if blasting would occur when residents are in their homes and was told that it could be possible. Jon Warner asked about the potential for window damage and Joseph said that he did not think the work would cause them to break. Kevin Ryan, a member of the Verona Town Council, asked about disruption to traffic on Bloomfield Avenue. Joseph said he did not think there would be any because the blasting would be done in “small shots” and the work area would be covered by the blasting mats. Joseph had, during his direct testimony, also covered the horn signals that are used to warn when a blast is about to occur.
Steve Foster asked how residents could learn about the accident record of a blasting company and was told that the state keeps records on this. John McEvoy asked how large the area covered by the pre-blast survey would be. Joseph said that his company, which is now run by his son, typically documents properties within 200 feet, but he noted that some towns have requested surveys as wide as 600 feet from the job site. (A survey area that wide in Verona would encompass Claremont Avenue to the north and Elmwood Road to the west, as well as most of the area south of Bloomfield Avenue to Sunset Avenue.) Jim Lukas asked whether blasters are compensated on a per day rate or given a total job fee was told it is usually a lump sum. John Duisenberre, a lawyer for property owners on Montclair Avenue asked about alternatives to blasting and drilling. Joseph said that a hydraulic hammer could be used, but said that that would result in a constant pounding noise.
The hearing was adjourned to November 8. Trembulak asked that the board consider a special hearing on the case, but no decision was made at last night’s meeting.