February 26, 2005
Explosive growth in the south East Valley has not only increased the amount of homes, traffic and road construction, but has also brought along an increase in dynamite blasting.
And some neighbors are not happy with the blasts, especially when it appears without warning.
Pat Watts bought a house for her parents, Frank and Pat Moore, last year in Johnson Ranch Estates. The house was ideal for her parents, who are dealing with multiple health problems, because the location — off the 12th hole of the golf course and the San Tan Mountains — has a serene view from the back yard.
The serenity was interrupted when dynamite blasting beyond the golf course began in mid-October, making way for more homes.
"It’s been very stressful because we didn’t know when the next blasting would happen," Watts said.
Frank Moore said the first blast caught him off guard and nearly knocked him off a kitchen stool.
"I thought a construction truck had run into my house," said the 65-year-old retired pipe fitter, who moved with his wife from Pennsylvania. "It scared the heck out of me."
The family received no preblast warnings, and five other blasts during the next three months rocked the house and interrupted landscaping and swimming pool construction at their home, they said.
The house is now covered with blue tape, marking hundreds of cracks on the stucco. Watts doesn’t know if the blasting is to blame, or if the cracks are normal settling of a new home.
"I’m not sure what caused the cracks, but I did notice them soon after the blasts," she said.
Watts said she is concerned her family was not warned of the blasts, and has spent months calling officials and trying to get answers as to why she was not warned and what effects blasting has on her house and the area.
The homebuilder, Richmond Homes, has been filling the cracks for warranty reasons since December at the house, finishing the interior cracks first.
The blasting was done by J &D Excavators, a company that blasts with dynamite throughout the state for various projects, from swimming pools and highways to rock quarries, said Jack Dekker, a J &D supervisor who has blasted for 25 years.
Dynamite blasting is needed to break up rocks that regular construction equipment can’t break up, Dekker said, adding that it’s more expensive to use other methods to break up the rock.
Dekker said before his company blasts, his workers typically knock on doors and notify surrounding neighbors to alleviate any problems. He said his employees are required to notify people within 300 feet of the blasting.
"Blasting really hasn’t been such an issue, but with all this growth we’re having to refamiliarize ourselves with the regulations," said Steve Brown, a building official with Pinal County.
Companies that do blasting must notify local law enforcement, fire and emergency services at least 48 hours in advance. However, they are not required by Pinal County to notify homeowners near the blasting site, Brown said.
Maricopa County goes by the same rules, said Al Macias, public information officer.
Dekker said he’s not sure if anyone knocked at Moore’s house, but said dynamite blasting is safe.
"There’s guidelines we have to follow and as long as our ground vibrations are under that, we’re not damaging the house," Dekker said. "If we go over that then, yeah, we’ve got a problem. All the precautions that can be taken are taken."
J &D Excavators follows guidelines found around the country. He said the cracks in Moore’s home are common for any stucco home.
Linda and Ed O’Toole’s 1-year-old house sits at the bottom of Mineral Butte on 2.5 acres south of Hunt Highway in back of the San Tan Heights development. The butte is part of the San Tan Mountains in Pinal County.
The couple received notice on Feb. 11 of dynamite blasting on Feb. 16. Although they knew of the blasting, they were not happy about it and also tried to get answers on what was happening.
The O’Tooles said they were told the permits are correct and that nothing could be done. They tried working with the land’s owner, Craig Vansickle, to find out what is planned near their home, but have been unsuccessful.