Former Little Choptank Barge Inspector Speaks Out - WBOC-TV 16, Delmarvas News Leader, FOX 21 -

Former Little Choptank Barge Inspector Speaks Out

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 CAMBRIDGE, Md.- Former Little Choptank Barge Inspector Ron Laber says he was concerned with the plume of sediment coming off the barge in the Little Choptank River after each load of fossilized oyster shell was dumped.  But he says it's not just that plume, but the content of the material that has him concerned.

Although fossilized shell and a material called "marl" look somewhat similar, Laber, a former inspector for the Maryland Environmental Service, says there is a difference.

While the shell is essentially shell, he says marl is a jagged stonelike material containing many fossils.  He says the content of the material that was on the barge in the Little Choptank, and previously on a barge in Harris creek, was not what he expected.

"I found that it was 40% shell from an inch and a half to five inches, about 30 to 40% marl, and the balance was fines," said Laber.

Laber says the specifications he was originally given called for 80% of the material to be shell, with only 20% containing marl and fine materials, also called fines.

The Department of Natural Resources says the specifications they require are a minimum of 65% shell, 35% marl, and less than 5% fines.  They say every batch is tested, but Laber insists his numbers are accurate.

For Laber, he says his concerns came to a head the day of the protest.  He says after two of the watermen protesting were taken to shore to discuss the issue, a Natural Resources Police officer called him to talk options.

"It was my opinion that the best thing we could do is shut the job down.  He said he agreed 100 percent.  The contractor told me since MES was doing the inspection on the job, it was my call whether we continued to work or tried to work.  It was my decision so I said let's close it up," Laber told WBOC.

Two weeks later, Laber says he was called into the office across the bay, his work equipment was confiscated, and he was fired.  WBOC reached out to MES for comment, they said they could not comment on human resource issues.

Laber says he isn't opposed to the project, but says even after he voiced his concerns, no changes were made to fix the issue he saw.
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