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Hearing Focuses On Bloomfield Avenue Blasting

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The red lines indicate the rough boundaries of the two lots included in the proposed development, which are bounded by Bloomfield Avenue and Westview Road.

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.

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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.

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Virginia Citrano
Virginia Citranohttps://myveronanj.com
Virginia Citrano grew up in Verona. She moved away to write and edit for The Wall Street Journal’s European edition, Institutional Investor, Crain’s New York Business and Forbes.com. Since returning to Verona, she has volunteered for school, civic and religious groups, served nine years on the Verona Environmental Commission and is now part of Sustainable Verona. She co-founded MyVeronaNJ in 2009. You can reach Virginia at [email protected]

3 COMMENTS

  1. Virginia,

    Last night’s meeting was the first in the series of hearings on this proposal that I could not attend. But reading your finely detailed story made me feel that I was there in person. Thanks for your thorough coverage.

  2. My question wasn’t simply whether they would be blasting while a resident may be at home- it was more a question of NJ State Code- that requires no person or vehicles can be within a MINIMUM 25 Foot Radius of Blastholes. In this particular case- there are 2 if not more homes that are WITHIN that State required radius. My Question was: How can they uphold that state code if a person is in one of those homes while blasting is occuring.
    In addtion: the blasting expert (retired) was not representing any firm that would be hired to potentially take this job. As such, no he could not comment on whether a preblast survey was planned. In some cases, insurance companies won’t even back some of these surveys, because they know that damage is imminent. A preblast survey can be required by the township…again, if insurance will participate.

    Somehow, you left out the whole testimony about the noise, and vibrations– how most homes and businesses in the area will feel vibrations throughout the day, “you will feel your floors vibrating- and hear things that sound like china cabinets shaking in your house” everyday for months. Drilling and hammering will also occur and also be very loud, as demonstrated by Mr Joseph himself while he banged his hand over and over on a table.

    I hope more people will take more interest and find out more facts about this project.

  3. Thanks, Jessica. Imagine coming home from work and expecting a quiet evening. That will not be possible. What if you worked different hours than 9 – 5 and you slept during the day? What if you had a new baby, a napping toddler, or you were recovering at home from recent surgery? John Joseph stated that it would not be possible to hear your radio or TV during the blasting and parts of the rock removal. Was it also not mentioned by Mr. Joseph that utilities to nearby homes and businesses would need to be shut off occasionally during the blasting? I don’t look forward to being “inconvenienced” (I can’t think of a different work right now) for 90 days for something that has no benefit at all to me, our neighborhood, or town. Our home predates 1890 and part of the original foundation sits directly on the basalt rock. He stated that we will experience more shaking and movement. Thus, we will have a higher degree of damage to our home. Finally, Everett Field is within 25 feet of the blast area. Will children’s activities be rescheduled during blasting?

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