TREMONT, Maine — The owner of a local gravel quarry, foremen at the facility and the contractor who set an errant blast that damaged neighboring homes have been cited by federal officials for safety violations at the site.
How much money in fines might be assessed over the safety violations has not yet been determined, a Mine Safety and Health Administration spokeswoman indicated Tuesday. Possible civil financial penalties range from hundreds of dollars to hundreds of thousands of dollars, according to information posted on the MSHA website.
Earlier this month the agency, which is part of the U.S. Department of Labor, served citations to John Goodwin Jr., the quarry owner; David Eastman, owner of Exeter contracting firm Northern Drilling and Blasting; and foremen Ronald Sanborn and Corey Mansolilli.
Goodwin has a history of federal safety violations at a quarry he owns in New Vineyard, near Farmington.
Most of the pending citations at the Tremont facility are not directly connected with a Nov. 17 blast that sent rocks flying hundreds of yards through the air into three nearby houses, according to officials. The planned explosion sent a large rock flying more than 600 feet and through the bedroom wall of local lobsterman Bruce Rich. He was unhurt. Other smaller rocks from the blast struck Rich’s house and workshop, as well as vehicles and houses on neighboring properties, one of which is about 900 feet from the quarry.
Nineteen citations have been issued in all, of which nine were issued to Sanborn, six to Eastman, three to Goodwin and one to Mansolilli. Of the 19 issued, seven have been terminated, which means the conditions that resulted in the particular cited violation have been fixed, MSHA spokeswoman Amy Louviere said Wednesday.
Two citations, issued to Goodwin and to Eastman on Dec. 8, fault the quarry owner and blasting contractor for failing to provide ample warning that the Nov. 17 blast was about to take place. Eastman insisted to MSHA investigator John A. Zahner that he used a horn to signal before the blast, but the two residents who were home at the time of the blast said they did not hear any preblast horn, according to the citations.
The failure to provide ample warning to residents in the line of fire from the blast, according to the citation orders, “exposed persons to [potentially] fatal crushing injuries due to flying material from the blast.”
According to the citation orders, other federal safety violations at the quarry stem from general conditions and operating procedures rather than specifically from the Nov. 17 incident. These violations include:
• Failure to register the site with federal officials.
• Nine instances of insufficient safety training, precautions and notifications.
• Six instances of substandard equipment or physical safeguards.
• An improperly secured water truck.
Contacted last week by phone about the citations, Eastman said he did not realize operations at the quarry were subject to MSHA regulations. Because the quarry is too small to be regulated by the Maine Department of Environmental Protection, he said, he thought it was exempt from federal regulations.
“That’s the only [quarry] we ever work on,” Eastman said last week. “We thought if it was under an acre in size, it wasn’t regulated by MSHA.”
Eastman said that to his knowledge fines have yet to be levied and that Goodwin’s insurance company is paying for repairs to the damaged homes.
Eastman did not respond to a voicemail message left Wednesday afternoon on his cell phone.
Attempts to contact Goodwin for this story have been unsuccessful. He has not replied to several messages left at his office since Nov. 17, including messages left last week and Wednesday afternoon.
Rich, the fisherman whose home was damaged in the Nov. 17 blast, also has not returned recent voicemail messages left at his home, including one left Wednesday afternoon. In earlier interviews, Rich said he was home on the day of the blast watching the movie “Meteor” on his large-screen television when rocks started falling from the sky around his house.
According to a state official, Goodwin and Northern Blasting also likely would face penalties from the state in connection with the errant blast if the Tremont quarry had been larger.
Mark Stebbins, mining coordinator for the Maine Department of Environmental Protection, said earlier this month that because the quarry is only 0.84 acres in size, the state cannot take action for the blast. DEP regulates only quarries that are at least 1 acre in size, Stebbins has said.
Town officials in Tremont, however, have said they are working on local regulations aimed at preventing the kind of incident that happened Nov. 17.
Blasting contractors and quarry owners do not have to get approval from the town before setting planned explosions. The town is drafting an ordinance that would require operators to get such approval. Tremont officials have said they hope to present the proposed ordinance to voters for possible adoption at the annual town meeting next May.
According to MSHA’s online mine data retrieval system, Goodwin has been fined in nine of the past 11 years, including 2011, for violations at a quarry he owns in the Franklin County town of New Vineyard. Between 2001 and 2011, Goodwin has been fined and paid a total of $5,244 in penalties for 43 separate safety violations at the New Vineyard site.
Information available in the online database indicates that from 2009 through 2011, safety violations at the New Vineyard site include:
• Unguarded moving machine parts.
• Insufficient impeding devices such as berms, safety hooks, or guardrails.
• Improperly maintained braking and audible warning devices on self-propelled mobile equipment.
• Improperly maintained containers.
• Insufficient first aid training or availability.
• Unsecured gas cylinders.
• Inadequate response in fixing defects.
Descriptions of the safety violations at the New Vineyard site before 2009 were not available in MSHA’s online database.