NEWPORT TWP. — A recent issue over trucks travelling from the Newport Aggregate quarry through the Lee section of Newport Township to the new Moxie Energy power plant in Salem Township took center stage during a packed commissioners meeting Monday night.
On behalf of Lee residents, Joseph Wilkes addressed the commissioners; so did state Rep. Gerald Mullery, D-Newport Township, and Mark Grohowski from state Sen. John Yudichak’s office.
Residents petitioned the commissioners to reduce the current 35 mph speed limit and ban the use of brake retarders on the section of road — state Route 3004 — in the Lee section of the township.
Wilkes compared the problem — Newport Aggregate’s trucks that transport materials to the power plant creating health issues and speeding concerns in Lee — to a toothache.
“Eventually you have to go to a dentist,” Wilkes said. “We’re at that point now.”
Trucks numbering in the thousands “go and come back” daily through Lee into Mocanaqua, and vibrations from the brake retarders, or Jake brakes, have started cracking foundations of houses, residents say.
Mullery said that he talked to officials with the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation who did an “informal unofficial traffic study” and found that the speed reduction was already being address and the Jake brakes “weren’t an issue.”
The state Department of Environmental Protection also had an inspector who is “aggressive in her job duties” out on Friday and “wouldn’t hesitate to cite them (trucks)” if they were causing problems, he said.
After talking to PennDOT, “a new route doesn’t appear viable,” Mullery said.
As for the health concerns — dust from the trucks could be a health hazard due to crystalline silica, which is a carcinogen found in quarries and blast sites — Commissioner John Zyla told those in attendance “Phil and Matt Bowers (of Bowers Inc. in Berwick) encourage township police to cite drivers travelling without tarps on the trucks and “send down information of (speeding) trucks.”
The tarps help keep the dust particles from the back of the trucks to a minimum, but the truck wheels kick up dirt on the road. Wilkes hoped the commissioners would ask the DEP to monitor the air quality.
“In no way are we against quarry, power plant, trucks,” Wilkes said.
Tom Kashatus, who spoke on the subject, during a separate public comment part of the meeting, said he was “concerned for our children” and “just want(s) the public to be informed.”
In other news, the board:
• approved two new pieces of donated artwork — one each from Marquis Art and Frame, Wilkes-Barre and the Newport Township Community Organization — to hang in the building.
• approved meeting minutes from the Jan. 4 reorganization and regular commissioners meetings.
• appointed John Wilkes as special consultant, Jerry McMahon to the parks and recreation board and Richard Zika as township manager.
The next commissioners meeting will be 6 p.m. March 7 at the municipal building.