Citizens call for tougher blasting laws

By Denise Coffey - Staff Writer
Regional - posted Fri., Jan. 24, 2014
Some residents claim blasts at this Thompson site have caused property damages along Reardon Road and Riverside Drive. Photo by Denise Coffey.
Some residents claim blasts at this Thompson site have caused property damages along Reardon Road and Riverside Drive. Photo by Denise Coffey.

The first time Maine Drilling and Blasting set off a charge on a Reardon Road property in Thompson, Joseph Janeczek and two friends were working in his garage on Riverside Drive. “When that blast went off, those two ran out of there,” Janeczek said. “They thought the building was coming down on them.”

Since that blast nearly two years ago, the explosions have continued sporadically. They’ve left many residents complaining of damage to their homes, foundations and wells. Seventeen residents voiced concerns at a Thompson Planning and Zoning Meeting on Oct. 28. Three months later, many of those questions remain unanswered.

MDB has denied responsibility for any damage, as has its insurance company. Residents are afraid that there will be more damage to their properties if the blasting continues. And they believe if damages do result, they won’t get straight answers from anyone.

It’s an issue that several communities in Connecticut have had to deal with. Blasting in Shelton, Lisbon, Paucatuck, Chester, East Haven and Thompson have yielded complaints ranging from cracked basements to damaged roofs. But it’s all very difficult to prove. Blasting companies are required to file permit applications before blasting. Shot records are supposed to list the size of the blast, number of holes to be drilled, and the depth and diameter of those holes. Getting those records has proved nearly impossible for many residents affected.

Deborah Rindge, of Chester, claims her private well was ruined when a company blasted ledge in her neighbor’s yard. Rindge thinks it’s obvious that the blasting caused the well damage. “I was fine,” she said. “They blasted. Now I’m not fine.”  Rindge had to file a Freedom of Information request to get a copy of the permit application from the fire marshal. She couldn’t get the shot record.

Now Rindge is on a mission to change the blasting laws in the state. She wants blasting and insurance companies, state and local officials to be held accountable.

Copies of blast permit applications are supposed to go to the blasting company, the state fire marshal’s office and the local fire marshal that approved it. Thompson residents haven’t been able to secure the one filed by MDB.

“No one wants to release anything,” said Joseph Janeczek. MDB and the Office of the State Fire Marshal haven’t responded to repeated calls from residents or ReminderNews. Thompson Fire Marshal Rick Hayes hasn’t produced any records and hasn’t immediately responded to calls from ReminderNews.

What MDB agreed to do was to conduct a “pre-blast survey” for Thompson residents.

Thompson resident William Chvirko said there were two problems with MDB’s proposal. The first, he said, is that it comes after more than a year’s worth of explosions. Data from those earlier explosions won’t be included. “Did they blast the same holes, at the same depth with the same amount of powder?” Chvirko said. “How can they make a fair comparison?”

His second concern is the objectivity of the company doing the survey. GeoSonics has been contracted by MDB as a third party to conduct pre- and post-blast surveys in Thompson. Information on its website lends credence to Chvirko’s cause for concern. Expert testimony is one of the company’s services.

They bill themselves as a “solid, technically-experienced consultant to represent your interests,” on the company website.

“But who are they representing?” Rindge asked.

Chvirko isn’t optimistic about his chances for recouping money for damages he believes were caused by the explosions. Still, he would like to see the town take certain steps. He would like to see the company bonded for possible future damages. He would like to see on-site inspections of the blasts. He would like notification of when the blasts are going to be set off.

Janeczek wonders if the town will end up footing a much larger bill in the future. The town owns the Gladys Green/Pineview Court Housing Project on Riverside Drive. Sewer lines run beneath Route 12. “If the blasting damaged my 12-inch thick foundation, what are they doing to 4-inch thick concrete sewer pipes?” he asked.

Rindge said she wants legislation passed that would offer stronger protection to property owners. “I’m not going to stop,” she said.


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