May 15, 2013
Blasting is not stopping at the Charlottesville-Albemarle Regional Airport, despite complaints from numerous homeowners near the airport who say the ongoing explosions are damaging their homes.
The CHO Authority decided Wednesday to continue with the blasting and to continue to gather information about the project.
About a dozen homeowners from the nearby Walnut Hill subdivision attended Wednesday morning's meeting, asking authority members why the blasting continued, and questioning whether their claims of damage would be ignored.
"We understand their concerns," said CHO Executive Director Melinda Crawford. "We want to be good neighbors."
Crawford says the airport is now paying for home inspections to be done where residents have claimed damage. But residents like Rit Venerus say, the inspections are coming too late.
"Why is the airport just now undertaking assessments of these damages?" said Venerus. He says he first noticed damage at his house on Redwood Lane in December, and he reported it to the airport.
Crawford says the airport cannot stop the project because the blasting is to put a safety lane at the end of the runway, an FAA requirement.
"It's not an option of not finishing the project," said Crawford.
Venerus says the cracks in his wall are getting progressively longer. He has marked each of them with the date that he first noticed them, and how they are changing. Venerus has found cracks in bedrooms, the garage, on a stone bench beside his outdoor swimming pool, and on the foundation of his house.
"The fact that a government authority will allow that damage to continue knowing that there are reports of damage is just alarming to me," said Venerus.
Airport authority chairman Bill Kehoe says he cannot guarantee that blasting will not continue, even after this runway project is completed, although he'd like to.
"Personally, I would like to get this blasting stopped and get it finished and not have to do it again," said Kehoe. But he says he is not sure if he can legally ban blasting at the site.
Crawford says the airport has been using blasting every since 1955.
The blasts happen about four times a week, and Crawford says they will continue at that rate for another month. After that, she says, the blasts will taper off to just once every couple weeks, until they finish in October.
Several homeowners also expressed concerns Wednesday that their damage claims will be ignored by the blasting company, Maine Drilling and Blasting. That company did not return a request for a comment from the Newsplex.
However, Crawford says the homeowners will be protected.
"If it's proven that the damages are associated with their project, there are mechanisms that would make sure that these homeowners were made whole," said Crawford.