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Blasting Shut Down Pending Quarry Investigation

© Leesburg Today - 05/22/2015

The blaster in charge at Loudoun Quarries has been issued a notice of violation and blasting has been shut down at the facility after four reports of rocks falling from the sky in Sterling on Thursday.

Investigators from the Virginia Department of Mines, Minerals and Energy were at the quarry Friday and will return there next week, agency spokeswoman Tarah Kesterson said.

One man was injured by debris from a rock and had to be stitched up at an area hospital, Kesterson said, and the Loudoun Department of Fire, Rescue & Emergency Management said there was other damage Thursday. Perhaps the most talked-about scene was at a NAPA auto parts store in Sterling. Rocks showered the parking lot, damaging cars and breaking a store window. At a nearby home, a rock crashed through the roof into a bedroom. 

Some residents first thought a meteor shower was to blame, and the county fire department and the U.S. Department of Labor's Mine Safety and Health Administration also have been investigating.

Kesterson said that Loudoun Quarries won't be able to be the site of blasts again until DMME approves new procedures there.

The blaster in charge has not been charged with a crime. He could have to undergo further training or face other scrutiny as a result of Thursday's incident, though, Kesterson said.

Chantilly Crushed Stone Inc. owns the quarry, but the company that was doing the blasting is Winchester Building Supply. 

Everyone is cooperating with investigators, Chantilly Crushed Stone attorney Antonio J. Calabrese said Friday, and reparations will be made for any harm resulting from Thursday's blast.

""We're incredibly grateful that no one was seriously hurt,"" Calabrese said.

He said that protocol was being followed Thursday, and that each blast is videotaped.

Safety is ""absolutely paramount"" at the quarry, which hasn't seen an incident in many years, Calabrese said.

Thursday's hubbub came less than 48 hours after a plan to turn the Chantilly Crushed Stone site into a mixed-use development was discussed at a Loudoun County Planning Commission meeting. The centerpiece of the project would be a lake that would be created by filling the quarry with water.

Individuals who witness rock blasting off the property of a quarry or any other commercial property can file a complaint with the Loudoun Fire Marshal's Office at http://loudoun.gov/firemarshal; click on ""Blasting Complaint Procedures"" link. View the county's blasting procedures here.

Residents who were impacted by Thursday's incident also can report complaints to DMME at 434-951-6310.

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