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  • Writer's pictureNC Leaks

Government Agencies Fail to Ensure Roadway Safety in Chapel Hill

This blog post will be updated as NC Leaks receives responses from local and state agencies.

For decades, Merritt's Gravel Pit, Inc., located at 3200 Damascus Church Road in Chapel Hill, has dumped grit, sand, pebbles and rocks onto the roadway with impunity. Local businesses and residents have complained to no avail. Even when one local business refused to give up until NCDOT took action and completed a repair in April 2020, Merritt's Gravel Pit owners, in the middle of the night, tore up part of the repair work and installed additional concrete pipes. This illegal action by pit owners reestablished the problem of the grit and sand, which continues to this day.

On November 26, 2022, NC Leaks sent the following email to NC Department of Transportation, NC Department of Environmental Quality Mining Division, NC Department of Public Safety, Carrboro Town Council (Carrboro has ETJ jurisdiction) and various other companies holding NC mining permits. The email states:

​Video link to water, grit, and sand flow from MGP: **This is a complaint to NCDEQ Mining Division and NCDOT** Since NCDOT completed its work in April 2020 to replace the culvert at 3200 Damascus Church Rd. Chapel Hill and repair the damage to 3100 Damascus Church Rd., Tony Merritt of the ​​Merritts Gravel Pit destroyed part of DOT’s work and placed an additional 8' of unauthorized reinforced concrete pipe onto Wildflower Learning Community's property. Tony Merritt also placed several inches of Chapel Hill Grit onto the gravel pit road entrance causing this grit and sand to enter the roadway and collect along the edge of the pavement after rain events and after the Merritt Gravel Pit waters its haul road (as required by its NCDEQ sand and gravel permit). There have been numerous complaints made to DOT and NCDEQ as grit/sand has collected along the roadway and has created a dam effect. This blockage is causing water, grit, and sand to wash downslope and onto the paved entrance of the Wildflower property. This is dangerous as parents leaving (local business) ​often lose​ traction as th​​ey enter and exit onto Damascus Church Rd​., and arterial road in Orange County. (Local business) has previously spent hours shoveling this grit out of its driveway over the past 4 years. (since its driveway was paved). Because of its expanding business,(local business) is not able to engage in this task as often as it is needed. Therefore, it has been hiring someone to clean the driveway. (local business) is filing suit in small claims court against Merritt's Gravel Pit, Inc. for reimbursement, as MGP has failed to respond to (local business)'s demand for reimbursement. In the past, we would say it is shocking that NCDOT and NCDEQ has allowed this unsafe condition to continue; however, we now know that both government agencies are apathetic to the safety of the drivers on Damascus Church Road and simply will not address both the issue and the MGP's control-through-bullying approach to NCDOT and NCDEQ. NC Leaks keeps track of the activities of WLC in order to report on its website the failings of both NCDEQ and NCDOT, and to enable NC Leaks to take this issue to the various government commissions. In July 2020, Mike Mills of NCDOT wrote to NC Leaks:​ "​In the case of the Merritt's situation, DOT is not the party responsible for correcting this situation, unless it is the result of something on our Right of Way such as a clogged driveway pipe. this case we will need to correct this, just as we did this past spring.​ ​However, if there is an issue with the operation of the facility, or infrastructure of the business, that is creating this grit on the roadway, then that is the responsibility of owners of the facility to correct.​" This situation is a result of a clogged pipe on the southern side of the driveway, and the clogged pipe is a result ​of ​Merritt's Gravel Pit destroying part of DOT’s April 2020 work and placing an additional 8' of unauthorized reinforced concrete pipe onto local business)'s property. This is a request for NCDOT to scrape the edge of the pavement between 3100 and 3200 Damascus Church Rd to bring it back to its previous condition at the time of the April 2020 repair. As to NCDEQ, the Merritts Gravel Pit is in violation of Operating Condition-Section 2 C of its April 2022 modified permit: “The permanent access road shall be constructed with NCDOT #5 stone or NCDOT #57 washed stone placed a minimum of 6” thick.” “Must be maintained in a condition which will prevent material tracking, direct flow or mud onto the DOT maintained right-of-way.” “The entrance shall be top dressed or replaced as necessary.” The ​​​permanent access ​road is not 6” thick of ​any type of ​stone. The condition does not prevent material tracking, flow or mud to enter the roadway. And, the entrance is not being top-dressed or replaced.

This blog post will be updated as NC Leaks receives responses from local and state agencies.

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