Department of Labor drops court case against Sullivan quarry operator

Posted Oct. 19, 2011, at 2:25 p.m.
Last modified Oct. 19, 2011, at 5:42 p.m.

SULLIVAN, Maine — The federal government has dropped its court claims against a local granite quarrying operation located off Track Road.

According to U.S. District Court documents filed in Bangor, the U.S. Department of Labor on Oct. 14 filed a notice of dismissal of its legal claims against Sullivan Granite Co. and its owner and operator, Conrad Smith.

The federal labor department took Smith to court in November 2010 after inspectors with the department’s Mine Safety and Health Administration were barred from conducting inspections of the Brown’s Meadow Quarry property located off Taunton Bay Drive.

The department had been seeking to collect $215,000 in fines from Smith for alleged safety violations at the quarry.

The alleged safety violations included a lack of safety chains or suitable locking devices on high-pressure air lines, a lack of railings or warning signs in certain locations in the quarry, unlabeled power switches and unsecured oxygen tanks, according to the department’s court complaint. Inspectors also cited several defects with a generator and a crane Smith had been using at the quarry, among other things. Federal officials claimed in the court complaint that the alleged conditions are violations of the Federal Mine Safety and Health Act of 1977.

Federal officials alleged that they visited Smith’s quarry multiple times in the summer of 2010 to conduct inspections but that Smith was not cooperative. Inspectors placed tags on pieces of equipment that they said violated safety codes and told Smith not to use them, but inspectors allege Smith used them anyway.

In the Oct. 14 filing, federal attorneys representing the U.S. Department of Labor indicated that a permanent injunction “is no longer necessary” against Smith.

“Defendants [Smith and Sullivan Granite] have permitted and ceased interfering with Mine Safety and Health Administration inspection,” government attorneys indicated.

In an interview earlier this year, Smith had said that he made all the mandated safety improvements but did not have any money with which he could pay the fines.

Contacted by phone Wednesday afternoon, Smith said he was permitted to resume quarrying in the spring and has been working in the quarry all summer. He said he does not believe the department is still ordering him to pay the fines.

Asked about the department’s decision to drop its complaint against him, Smith said, “No comment.”

Ted Fitzgerald, spokesman for the regional U.S. Department of Labor office in Boston, said Wednesday that the issue of the fines was still pending before the Federal Mine Safety and Health Review Commission. He said he has not been able to speak with federal attorneys who are familiar with the case and so was unable to comment further.

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