DUMMERSTON -- In spite of extensive discussion, ongoing monitoring and a meeting of contractors, town officials and residents, it remains unclear why gravel-pit blasting is rattling some nearby homes.
Residents of the Poplar Commons housing development have expressed concerns that blasts at the gravel pit, situated off Route 5 behind Hidden Acres Campground, continue to shake their homes in spite of measures in place to prevent such effects.
Selectboard Chairman Zeke Goodband said he has turned to experts including the state's geologist in an effort to address the issue. Pit administrators and Poplar Commons residents also are pledging to continue to work toward a solution.
"We all want this to be resolved. We want to be safe. We want the town to have its gravel," said Claudia Teachman, who heads the Poplar Commons Homeowners Association.
Two neighboring gravel-pit operations received Act 250 land-use permits last year: A new pit will be opened on land owned by Renaud Gravel, and an existing pit was given permission to expand toward the new Renaud operation.
The Renaud pit is being developed with the towns of Dummerston and Putney, which will depend on the site for long-term supplies of road gravel.
Throughout a long permitting process that included hearings before Dummerston's Development Review Board, contractors and town officials worked to address the worries of residents at Poplar Commons. In particular, blasting was to be strictly monitored and controlled.
But blasting at the old pit has caused concerns since it began in the spring. Several residents attended a Dummerston Selectboard meeting in early June, with some saying they had felt their homes shake after explosions at the pit.
That led to a meeting at Poplar Commons that included residents, Selectboard members and contractors including pit administrator Mike Renaud. The meeting was timed to coincide with a round of blasting at the pit, but it didn't produce the results that some had expected, officials said Wednesday.
"The blast seemed to be not much to write home about. I couldn't really feel it," Goodband said.
Selectboard member Steve Glabach also was present.
"Short of just hearing a slight thump ... that particular blast didn't seem to have the same impact, apparently, that some before it had," he said.
"The key, I thought, was that the monitors seemed to read about the same for this blast as they had for the previous blast," Glabach added.
That's been one of the mysteries for officials and residents alike: Monitors in place at Poplar Commons have shown no unusual shocks, even as residents have reported dramatically different experiences during blasting.
The issue came no closer to resolution at Wednesday evening's Selectboard meeting, when officials disclosed that blasting earlier this week had prompted additional complaints from Poplar Commons residents.
Goodband said he had received an e-mail saying the blast "was rattling the dishes and was alarming."
Teachman summed it up this way: "Something is odd, and it's not showing up in the monitors, and it's catching people off-guard and unaware."
Goodband said he has contacted the Vermont Agency of Natural Resources in an effort to research the problem.
"They referred me to the state geologist, and he'd like me to send him some maps so he can locate the geologic formation and try to get some more information from that," Goodband said. "I'm trying to find someone who can give us some advice."
Goodband added that Renaud is "doing the best he can to follow the permit. He seems to want to be a good neighbor ... I don't think anyone expected this to be happening."
The Selectboard chairman said he will return to Poplar Commons to feel the effects of upcoming blasting and will continue to make inquiries with the state.
"I'm not sure what else to do right at this point," Goodband said.
Mike Faher can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 802-254-2311, ext. 275.