DEP and police cracking down on controversial dump trucks

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Pennsylvania residents upset with heavy dump truck traffic packed a local commissioners’ meeting Monday night and asked government officials to lower the speed limit, test the air quality and eliminate the use of brake retarders along a state road used daily by dozens of dump trucks.

In an effort to appease residents, the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection and local law enforcement will now be more closely monitoring the trucks. However, the state reports that a new truck route doesn’t appear possible.

Dump truck traffic increased dramatically on State Route 3004 in Newport Township after construction began a few months ago on a power plant in neighboring Salem Township, about 20 miles southwest of Wilkes-Barre.

However, Gemma Power Systems, which is handling the construction of the $1 billion natural gas fueled power plant, says the trucks aren’t violating any laws and that it would be very difficult to stop the vehicles this far into the plant’s construction.

The trucks’ regular path through the Lee section of Newport Township has residents there complaining about noise, unhealthy dust, diesel exhaust and intense road vibration which they claim has already cracked the foundations of some homes. A petition citing their concerns was presented to the commissioners Monday night, according to

State Rep. Gerald Mullery, D-Newport Township, told Newport Township commissioners at Monday’s meeting that the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation found no problems with the brake retarders, or Jake brakes, and that a speed reduction on the 35 mph road was being addressed. Residents contend that vibrations from the brakes have damaged foundations on some homes.

Mullery also said that an “aggressive” inspector with the state’s Department of Environmental Protection began observing the trucks Friday and would issue citations if warranted. He also said that PennDOT reported that “a new route doesn’t appear viable.”

Residents asked commissioners to have the DEP test the air quality in their neighborhood along State Route 3004. The trucks have been carrying loads of rock from a nearby quarry which residents are concerned contain unhealthy amounts of crystalline silica, a carcinogen commonly found in quarries.

A commissioner said that Newport Township police have been encouraged to enforce the speed limit and ticket trucks that have no tarps. While tarps do help to reduce the dust, residents contend that there’s already a substantial amount of dust on the road that is continually being stirred up by the passing trucks.

Forty-five dump trucks have been traveling back and forth to the Salem Township job site daily from 6 a.m. to 7 p.m. carrying loads of stone to help build the Caithness Moxie Freedom Power Plant. The trucks travel an 8-mile route from a stone quarry in Newport Township to the job site.

Gemma Power hopes to add 15 more trucks and reports that the project may take another two-and-a-half years to complete.