Amid dozens of resident complaints, Howard County allows quarry to blast without required permits

After 20 years in business, Savage Stone quarry has had its operating permit renewal denied by Howard County officials, who cited failure to live up to its conditional use agreement — including operating without a Clean Water Act permit.

The county’s rejection follows over 80 complaints within the last five years from nearby residents who claim Savage Stone is responsible for persistent dark dust found on their properties, strong vibrations in their homes from quarry blasts, damage to their homes, and noise violations.

In its May 13 decision, a county zoning hearing examiner found the quarry failed to meet its obligation to protect surrounding residential communities of the quarry from adverse environmental effects. It noted the quarry has not lived up to four conditions out of 24 requirements.

Savage Stone, according to the county decision, failed to control dust emissions, implement procedures to detect property damage from continuous and long-term blasting, provide an independent arbitrator to residents for damage disputes, and are allegedly non-compliant with local, state, and federal laws.

“When Petitioner originally applied for the Conditional Use, it had to show, among other things, that its activities would not have adverse effects on environmentally sensitive areas or other properties from noise, dust, fumes, vibrations, or other physical conditions than would otherwise occur in an M-1 Zoning District,” the decision stated.

This is the first time since 2004 that the county has denied Chase Land, LLC. a permit renewal for the quarry, which real estate developer Caleb Gould owns. The quarry, whose parent company, Laurel Sand & Gravel, was founded by the Gould family in 1982, is located at 8420 Washington Blvd. in Jessup, Maryland.

The company got a special approval from the Howard County Board of Appeals in 1997 that allowed the quarry to operate on a renewable five-year conditional permit, but it was subject to 24 stringent conditions.

The quarry’s operating permit expired on February 5. Savage Stone’s attempt to renew it only one month earlier was another example of bad faith cited by the county because of the limited time it gave officials to conduct renewal hearings.

The Howard County Department of Planning and Zoning ordered the quarry to cease operations on April 12 but it is continuing to blast during the appeal process.

Resident Concerns: Dust, Vibrations, Cracks in their homes, and Noise

Gary Prestianni, a retired master electrician in the commercial construction industry, has lived on Mission Road for 66 years. He is among the original group that agreed to let the quarry operate.

“The quarry has not lived up to its agreement with the community,” Prestianni said at a March hearing on Savage Stone’s conditional use permit.


Condition 17 of the agreement struck between Savage Stone and the county states: Dust emissions will be controlled and maintained within the confines of the site in accordance with State regulations.

Prestianni says the dust is constant.

“It’s every day. It’s constant. It never subsides,” Prestianni said. “It’s on the windowsills, the walkway, on my patio furniture outside.”

Mission Road homeowner Gary Prestianni wipes half of the glass patio table to show blue-gray dust, he said floats freely through the air. (Courtesy photo)

He showed photos at the hearing he took of what he described as a blue and gray dust caked on his outdoor cement steps and a round glass table on his patio. He said the dust floats freely through the air.

“Until the quarry started, we never had that dust there.”

A blue-gray dust coats the steps at Gary Prestianni’s home on Mission Road in Jessup, Md. Prestianni’s home is 875 ft. from Savage Stone Quarry. (Courtesy photo

Dolapo Junaid, 33, owns a home in the Mission Place community, which is across the street from the quarry.

He said his mother developed a cough when she moved into the townhouse. Eventually, she needed to install a humidifier to help with the persistent coughing.

“She’s asthmatic,” Junaid explained, but nearby in Columbia, where they lived for about a year, “she didn’t need it.”

Crack in the foundation of Shagufta Tahir’s home in Pleasant
Chase (Photo by Glynis Glynis Kazanjian)

On Pleasant Chase Road, homeowner Shagufta Tahir said she regularly gets black soot on the side of her house that faces the road. She pointed to an area of siding approximately 14’ long near the ground with a black film coated against it.

“I just cleaned my building,” she said, pointing to the black stain on the exterior of her home.

Prestianni said he reported his concerns to the Maryland Department of the Environment, asking for air quality filters. He said he got no response.

“MDE won’t come out to monitor or check on the dust,” he said. “The quarry tells me everything they’re doing, but it does not stop it from getting on my property.”

Prestianni also fears the dust is carcinogenic.

“I absolutely believe it’s Gabbro dust,” Prestianni said. “It’s airborne, whatever it is.”

Savage Stone was asked by the Baltimore Post Examiner (BPE) if they ever tested for black dust or “fugitive dust,” as some refer to as the alleged dust traveling from the quarry.

In response, a quarry executive said Savage Stone had hired two “independent third-party” consulting firms to test for fugitive dust.

“Both firms were unable to detect the fugitive dust being alleged by our neighbors,” Andrew Pflaum of Savage Stone provided in a questionnaire response.


Other resident complaints center around the quarry’s blasting and the potential damage to their homes.

Prestianni said the foundation of his home has severe cracking. He lives 875’ from the quarry, essentially across the street. He said the cracks tripled in a nine-year period between 2005 and 2014, and he has photographic evidence to prove it.

Savage Stone did conduct a “pre-blast” survey of Prestianni’s home, in response to his complaints. A report was reportedly generated from the visit, but Prestianni said he never received a copy.

“I was told my house was still settling,” he said. “We don’t get anything from the quarry.”

BPE interviewed nine homeowners, including some renters, on June 6 in unannounced visits. All nine said the blasting vibrates their homes. Several residents pointed out cracks in their foundation, and other issues they say are a result of weekly blasts.

Tahir, who is experiencing black soot on the side of her home, has lived in Pleasant Chase on the main road for six years. She showed BPE foundation cracks in the rear and side of her home.

“I was wondering why is our home shaking? When we moved in, the blasting was three or four times a day,” Tahir said. It has since slowed down, she said. Still, “It is like an earthquake in our house.”

David Gunti points to a separation of his garage door trim that he believes was caused by the quarry blasts,. (Photo by Glynis Kazanjian)

David Gunti, who has lived on Pleasant Chase Road for almost 20 years, said there is damage on the interior and exterior of his home, including a garage door frame that has separated from his house. The other garage door is intact.

“Whenever the house shakes, the damage is coming,” Gunti said. He said he sent in pictures of the damage to Savage Stone and is waiting to see what happens.

Lisa Broughton, 48, and her husband, a disabled military veteran, live on Mission Place in a townhouse. She said she was sitting on her deck the morning of June 6 drinking coffee when a blast happened. She said she felt it.

“Oh my god, yes,” she said of the blast. “It shakes the whole house,” she said. “Sometimes it feels like an earthquake. You can see the cracks in the house. I don’t have health problems, but I have PTSD. It drives me crazy.”

Broughton said another time the light fixture in her bathroom came down “right after a blast.” She said it was hanging from the ceiling. The couple has repaired it twice.

“We have to pay to get these things fixed,” she said. She also pointed out several interior cracks in the walls on the main floor that she believes are from the blasts.

Broughton’s neighbor, Cherylle King, 65, showed BPE photos of cracks in her walls, which she also attributes to the blasts. She took her first set of photos in February 2022 and again in May 2024.

“In the top floor bedroom, you can see big, huge cracks,” King said. “And now they’re in the spare bedroom. Some [cracks] on the main floor, the molding is starting to separate.”

King says she works from home and usually feels the blasts around 11 a.m.

“I feel it, and I hear it. I always think that someone ran their car into my garage,” King said.

On Oak Meade Way in a townhouse community at the back of Pleasant Chase, a 26-year-old renter and his wife live with their baby. The renter, who asked to remain anonymous, says he feels the vibrations from the quarry’s blasts at home and at his office park on Columbia Gateway Drive, “a 10-minute drive away,” in some of the outer offices.

In response to homeowner complaints about potential damage from blast vibrations, Savage Stone says their blasts meet state standards. They deny any wrongdoing.

“We have not violated or exceeded any vibration standard that would begin to cause damage,” Savage Stone Operations Manager Randy Heckler said during a tour of the quarry.

But according to the hearing examiner’s May 13 decision, seismograph readings – which measure blasts – are only used to determine if blast vibrations are within “State Levels.”

“Petitioner’s witness, Mr. Patrick Hastings, the President of Seismic Surveys and a certified geologist, testified that these seismograph readings are only used to determine if blast vibrations are within State levels. Mar. 21, 2024, at 38:17,” the May 13 decision states. “The seismograph readings are not used to estimate damage attributable to the blast, or to measure the cumulative impact of past blasting.”

Damage complaints

Condition 13 states, The Petitioner shall establish and implement procedures for the investigation and reporting of vibration and damages attributable to the quarry operations  on all homes within 1,000 feet of the quarry excavation area and the 12 Heritage Woods homes identified in the Petitioner’s testimony.”

In addition, a further broadening of Condition 13 established protocols for Savage Stone to determine any vibration effects on nearby homes, prior to a blast, maintain a $25,000 revolving fund for quick resolution of vibration damage, and designate an independent arbitrator to decide damage claims.

Currently, Savage Stone sends Seismic Surveys to perform damage claim investigations along with a Savage Stone representative when they receive a complaint, according to hearing testimony given by the company this year.

“Typical procedure includes providing a copy of the investigation results to the homeowner,” Heckler said.

During the past five years, the quarry said it has provided investigation reports more than a dozen times.

BPE asked Savage Stone if they met the requirement to establish an independent arbitrator.

“No arbitration has been required, requested, or has occurred,” the company responded.

When asked how many residents filed “claims” during its last renewal period, 2019 to 2023, the company stated the number of complaints were approximately 80, with a caveat.

“Note that a ‘complaint’ is not the same as a ‘damage claim,” Savage Stone stated. “Some ‘complaints’ are just a neighbor complaining that they ‘felt that one a little more.’ We remain in communication and have continued to offer detailed blast results confirming compliance and also on-site seismic monitoring and/or expert evaluation to offer peace of mind to our neighbors,” the company stated.

According to data confirmed by Savage Stone, the following chart reflects the number of annual blasts versus the number of complaints filed, though the company did not distinguish between claim and complaint.

2019 62 blasts 3 complaints

2020 42 blasts 20 complaints

2021 52 blasts 10 complaints

2022 67 blasts 20 complaints

2023 60 blasts 27 complaints

2024 13 blasts 12 or 13 complaints

Savage Stone was asked whether seismographs are placed inside or outside of homes when residents request them.

“The seismograph is typically installed outside the residence in the direction of the blast in order to monitor vibrations as they reach a structure. This is consistent with industry best practices and applicable regulations set by MDE and other states. We have conducted seismic monitoring inside a neighbor’s residence when it was specifically requested and found results to be within the applicable limits,” the company responded.

“We continue to offer to observe blasts from a neighbor’s residence but the offer is often declined,” the company said.

Out of all the complaints, Savage Stone has never paid out money to any of the residents for property damage claims, consistently finding that the blasts are not causing the property damage that residents are reporting.

The Clean Water Act and Environmental Justice zones

Condition 24. The Petitioner shall comply with all applicable federal, State, and County laws and regulations.

Part of Savage Stone’s agreement states it will possess a federal Clean Water Act (CWA) permit in order to operate. However, the quarry’s CWA permit expired on April 30, 2022.

While Savage Stone has argued that they are covered under a general state “NPDES MM-15” permit issued by the Maryland Department of the Environment (MDE) – which can substitute for a federal CWA permit – a spokesperson from MDE inferred that the local authority was separate from the federal government and state requirement.

“Yes, such facilities need a Clean Water Act permit to operate,” MDE spokesman Jay Apperson stated in an email response. “The permit and the county authority are two separate things. Savage Stone is one of many facilities that fall under the general mining NPDES permit, Permit No. MM-15. Permit MM-15 was administratively extended upon its expiration on May 1, 2022, meaning it remains in effect. That administrative extension applied automatically to all facilities that received coverage under that general permit, including Savage Quarry.”

The residential communities surrounding Savage Stone also fall into an Environmental Justice area, where the benchmark is higher for environmental standards – but the state has not caught up yet.

“The 15MM was issued before MDE began incorporating EJ into permits. MDE is currently rewriting the General Permit and EJ concerns are being incorporated,” Apperson said.

The fact that Savage Stone is operating without a conditional use permit is also a violation of the operating agreement, the zoning examiner found.


Condition 18 states that “Blasting will occur no more than 10 seconds per month. No blasting will occur between the hours of 6:00 p.m. and 7:30 a.m. on any day.”

Prestianni said he made noise violation complaints to the Maryland Department of Health in the past, but the agency did not respond.

Savage Stone appeals

“Petitioner has the burden of proof and persuasion to show by a preponderance of the evidence that it has complied with the terms of its Conditional Use during the preceding five-year renewal period,” the decision states.

Savage Stone filed an appeal May 17, calling the zoning examiner’s findings “erroneous” and “contrary to Maryland State Law.” The quarry is represented by attorney Sang W. Oh of Talkin & Oh, LLP.

“Hearing Examiner D&O on the 4th extension of BA 95-58E is arbitrary, capricious, clearly erroneous, contrary to law, and/or otherwise illegal as the evidence does not support the denial of the requested extension.”

However, the quarry is still allowed to blast.

The Howard County Zoning and Planning Department (DPZ) made a decision to “stay” all enforcement actions of operating without a permit, until the appellate process has played out.

“DPZ’s policy is to stay enforcement action on alleged violations while an appeal is pending. DPZ is monitoring the status of this case and will assess the need for further enforcement at the completion of the appellate process,” Lynda Eisenberg, director for Howard County Department of Planning and Zoning, stated in a response to BPE.

The Howard County Board of Appeals has scheduled a hearing on August 29, 2024, at 9 a.m. and September 5, 2024.

11 thoughts on “Amid dozens of resident complaints, Howard County allows quarry to blast without required permits

  • July 7, 2024 at 6:39 PM

    Thank you for writing this article. I life off of Guilford Rd residing in my neighborhood for 9 years and I was never made aware of the mining until 2yrs ago. The shaking is horrible and scary. Since living here I’ve had structural damage and water intrusion from all the blasting and shaking, which I’ve had to fix multiple times in different parts of the basement. It’s terrible how Howard County has allowed this business to continue these practices for this long. As a resident we pay a lot of money for our homes and don’t feel that we should have to continue to be responsible to fix our homes that are damaged from these blast that happen several times a week. It was so bad that my basement window was starting to shift. Of course, I have to pay to fix, it’s not fair to us homeowners. I’m thankful that this is brought to everyone’s awareness because I wasn’t sure how to file a complaint.

  • July 1, 2024 at 2:11 PM

    The article is remarkable, highlighting the challenges and financial strain experienced by residents. The treatment of our veterans, causing suffering not only for residents but also for those who serve, is troubling. It’s disheartening to see such disregard for those who have PTSD and have served our country. I’ve lived in this community for nearly 17 years, and it’s upsetting that despite the Hearing Examiners denying their permit, blasting continues at the quarry, adversely affecting the surrounding communities.


  • June 19, 2024 at 4:05 PM

    I am writing to bring to your attention a serious issue that is affecting my home and the well-being of my family, I have observed significant damage to the foundation of my home, which I believe is a direct result of blasting activities conducted by Savage Stone in our area. The blasting has caused noticeable cracks in the walls and foundation of my home, which are worsening with each passing day. These damages not only compromise the structural integrity of my property but also pose safety risks to my family. Despite taking initial measures to mitigate the impact, the vibrations and shocks from the blasting are beyond my control and continue to cause harm. I am deeply concerned about the long-term effects this may have on my home and the safety of my family. I respectfully request your assistance in addressing this matter. Specifically, I urge you to: Investigate the impact of Savage Stone’s blasting activities on residential properties in the vicinity. Hold Savage Stone accountable for any damages caused by their operations. Enforce stricter regulations and monitoring to prevent further damage to homes and properties in the area. Provide guidance and support for homeowners like myself who are dealing with the repercussions of these activities. Additionally, I am willing to provide any further information or cooperate in any way necessary to resolve this issue.
    I hope for a prompt and effective response to ensure the safety and integrity of our homes and community.

  • June 19, 2024 at 1:40 PM

    Thank you for bringing this to the attention of the Howard County community. I wish the elected officials including the County Executive would take notice and put an end to this madness. I bought my Townhouse in 1997, and am an original owner in Pleasant Chase. My house was built prior to the existence of Savage Stone. I have witnessed first hand the destruction the blasting has caused to my home and the surrounding community. It first started with nails in the ceiling popping out, then cracks in the foundation, and then complete cracks in the cement driveway. If you listen to Savage Stone’s “talking points” they attribute this to the natural settling of one’s house. None of this started happening until 6-10 years after these houses were constructed. Which ironically is when Savage Stone started blasting. Then there is the psychological trauma caused by the weekly blasting, and the dust which who knows what health consequences it may have upon us. Howard County does not seem to care about the affects Savage Stone has had upon our community, as they receive thousands and thousands of tax dollars for the community, and who can forget the campaign contributions the quarry and owner have contributed to the local elected officials…

  • June 19, 2024 at 1:14 PM

    I’ve lived in my house on Lincoln Drive for thirteen years. I bought it because it was quiet and peaceful. I couldn’t have been more wrong. Since the quarry began operations, my house has been shaking two times a week due their blasting, I’m so afraid that those blasting are and continue damaging my foundation. walls, sidewalks, windows, my parking lot is been sunk I even had to remove my pool because the constantly shaking caused it to crack.

    I’m also concerned about the effect the constant black dust from the quarry is having on my family’s respiratory systems. We haven’t been able to enjoy our backyard cookouts because of it. It’s impossible to relax and enjoy our home. We’re all starting to suffer from the mental strain of the constant tremors and stress over the damage to our home.

    It’s frustrating to have to deal with this issue every day. Our homes are supposed to be our sanctuaries. Instead, we’re afraid of sinkholes due to the constant blasting. We ask the authorities to stop this blasting so that we can have peace of mind and that my property does not continue to deteriorate.

  • June 19, 2024 at 8:21 AM

    I hear the residents complaints, but i have to be honest…. this organization is one of the BEST in the state operating other facilities with no complaints and no hard feelings from neighbors. Take away the quarry and who do you then blame for the dust and the settling of your houses. Seems to me like an attempt to beat up the big guy and blame them for all of your woes. Route 1 generates more dust and noise than the quarry does. Building that High School next door generated more dust and noise. Seems like everyone wants to just be a victim and whine and complain. The quarry employees a number of local people and adds to the economy around there in the form of wages and tax dollars. It also contributes to the local neighborhood and i would guess 4 out of 5 support the quarry. sounds like an internal struggle between neighbors and the neighborhood association… seems like more to this story and the “complaints”.

    • June 19, 2024 at 2:28 PM

      James Langley, I read your message and I would like to ask you a question. Where is your house?? I have the feeling you don’t even live next to the quarry. From the way you talk, it sounds like you work for the quarry whether it may be a quarry worker or driver hauling out of there.
      I assume I’m right about you not living here. In that case.. you don’t have the problems we are having…..
      1. The problem of the dust
      2. The shaking causing our homes to crack, shift,sink, etc..
      3. The damage to our foundations,
      sidewalks and driveways.
      4. Sink holes. (If you don’t believe this,
      why don’t you contact me and bring a
      video camera so you can see a big one
      under my house.
      This could on and on but, this should be enough to open your eyes.
      I have been living here for 24 years and this house was built 30 years ago (1994). So the excuse of saying our problems are due to settling does not fly.
      You state that you think this is people wanting to cry about it.
      With all that said and if I am right about you not living here….. your comment tells me that you just want to stir up the pot and try to get 15 seconds of fame.

    • June 20, 2024 at 5:41 PM

      Obviously YOU are on Savage Stone’s payroll. Whatever will you do when they are permanently SHUT DOWN !!!

  • June 18, 2024 at 1:21 PM

    The article is remarkable, highlighting the challenges and financial strain experienced by residents. The treatment of our veterans, causing suffering not only for residents but also for those who serve, is troubling. It’s disheartening to see such disregard for those who have PTSD and have served our country. I’ve lived in this community for nearly 17 years, and it’s upsetting that despite the Hearing Examiners denying their permit, blasting continues at the quarry, adversely affecting the surrounding communities. It is abundantly clear that they are operating in bad faith and showing total disregard for the welfare of the residents. This weekend, it took me two hours to clean the two brand-new windows in my daughter’s room due to an unbelievable amount of black dust on them. We shouldn’t have to endure our houses shaking multiple times a week or deal with pervasive black dust.

  • June 17, 2024 at 8:10 PM

    Thank you so much for writing this article and bringing this huge issue to light. My family and I have lived in Pleasant Chase right off Mission road for 6 years. My husband and I have 2 kids and are very concerned for all of our safety. We are so tired of our house shaking weekly since we moved in and I’m sure many years prior. It feels like an earthquake. My kids are scared and so are myself and my husband. We can’t see what’s happening under our house, which is terrifying, but the issues IN our house that we repeatedly have to fix are concerning and frustrating. Our new front door frame keeps shifting and opening is difficult. The company already fixed it once and it keeps happening after blasting. Our sidewalks sunk and we had to pay thousands to get them raised. We have cracking and separating throughout our house. The quarry has visited our home 3 times and all they do is blow us off and say “your house is just settling.” The blasting needs to stop. Our kids asked for a safe room because they’re scared. We should feel safe in our own home. We shouldn’t have to deal with our house shaking multiple times a week or this black dust that’s everywhere. Who knows what we’re all breathing in. The quarry needs to be shut down. It’s effecting our mental health and well being.

  • June 17, 2024 at 4:01 PM

    Thank you, Glynis.


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