Hundreds turn out for quarry hearing

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, October 18, 2005

Hundreds of concerned citizens, local and state elected officials turned up at Thompson High School last Thursday night. The majority of those present came to express opposition to a proposed limestone quarry in Alabaster.

This could be the last effort to halt the proposed quarry.

The quarry would be located near Smokey Road and Meadow View Elementary School. The public hearing was hosted by the Alabama Department of Environmental Management.

Robert J. Dow, developer, appraiser, broker and the person most known behind the quarry proposal by Middle Tennessee Land Development Company LLC said following the hearing, &uot;There was nothing said that I did not expect. Again, we are confident that all scientific evidence will show no negative effect to the groundwater.&uot;

Groundwater, noise, dust, sinkholes and traffic were among concerns expressed by both citizens and elected officials.

Pamela W. Hunt, who manages the group which regulates permitting and enforcement activities for quarries at the Air Division of ADEM, addressed the crowd.

She said Middle Tennessee Land Development has proposed to construct a facility that would involve the crushing and conveying of limestone. She said the processes contain equipment that would be subject to new source performance standards developed by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

Hunt said the regulations are uniformly applicable across the country and that ADEM administers the regulations in Alabama.

She went on to say that the emissions of dust from crushers and conveyor transfer points would be controlled by wet suppression systems.

And, she said, the systems proposed for this facility would be capable of meeting or exceeding all federal and statement requirements.

&uot;Any dust generated from the facility’s operation would be in quantities that would define the facility as a minor source under state and federal air pollution permitting programs,&uot; Hunt said.

&uot;Based upon our review of the permit application for this facility, the department has proposed the issuance of an air permit developed in accordance with applicable state and federal requirements.

&uot;While the Department understands that there are concerns surrounding the (location) of a facility such as this including traffic, noise, property values and others, the department does not exercise zoning authority and may consider only comments relating to air quality in its final decision on this request for an air permit.&uot;

She went on to say that it was her committee’s belief that the air quality would not be adversely affected by the quarry; however, this preliminary determination would be reconsidered after all comments were received.

A handout was also given to those who chose to speak to explain that the purpose of the hearing was to provide interested individuals an opportunity to comment on ADEM’s preliminary determination that both an Air Permit and a National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) water discharge permit should be issued to Middle Tennessee Land Development for the construction and operation of a proposed limestone quarry.

Among items listed that could not be considered were truck traffic, property values and noise, &8220;aesthetics,&8221; &8220;proximity to schools,&8221; and &8220;blasting.&8221;

Those who spoke against the quarry included State Sen. Hank Erwin, State Rep. Mike Hill on behalf of himself and State Rep. Cam Ward, Montevallo Mayor Sharon Anderson, Alabaster Mayor David Frings, Alabaster councilmembers Bob Hicks and Mike Sherwood and Shelby County Commissioner Jon Parker.

Also expressing concern was Bobby Phillips, a member of the Calera City Council and chairman of the city’s Water and Sewer Board and Dr. Mike Hardig, a biologist at the University of Montevallo.

Rep. Hill read a statementto the air quality committee and those gathered at THS.

&uot;While this proposed quarry may reap an economic benefit for some, the negative impact that this development will have on our entire community greatly outweighs the good.

&uot;The citizens of this area know what is best for their community. The local and state leadership here tonight stand united in our desire to see the community served by what is best for their homes and families.&uot;

Hill asked the committee to consider the adverse impact the quarry could have on the quality of life of those residents they represent.

&uot;The air we breathe, the traffic we travel in and the schools our children attend are all something that we all care deeply about,&uot; he said.

Erwin referred to the area near the proposed quarry as a community with a school and subdivisions … &uot;a place to raise children.&uot;

He said he had toured the proposed quarry property and, &uot;I think it is too close to those homes … I think the (proposed) quarry is too close to the school.&uot;

He said even with a wall there would be noise impact. He also noted truck traffic. And he said after 20 or 30 years, all that would be left is a hole.

&uot;I’m opposed to this quarry &045; today, tomorrow, forever,&uot; Erwin said.

When later asked if he had changed his position on the proposal, Erwin said he has never changed his view.

He said there was a 10 second news spot when the quarry idea first became public that was &uot;taken out of context and misunderstood.&uot;

&uot;People assumed I was for it, but I was never for it,&uot; he said.

He also said he sent two letters of protest to ADEM before Thursday night’s public hearing.

County Commissioner Parker said a majority of the quarry is in his commission district. He said the county is under a no burn order during summer months. He expressed concern that the county would have to go to a yearround no-burn order with all the dust caused by the proposed quarry.

He also expressed concerns about a negative impact on Montevallo, Alabaster and Calera.

He noted the opposition to the quarry by the Shelby County Commission.

Alabaster Mayor David Frings, a geologist by trade, suggested ADEM require additional information from Middle Tennessee Land and Development Company and raised several technical issues.

He noted that even if a 300-foot-deep hole were sunk and found to be dry, one could move over 10 feet in the type of topography at the site and still strike water within four feet.

He requested that a detailed groundwater study be done.

He also noted that a landfill already borders Smokey Road, which could raise solid waste issues.

And Frings requested that ADEM not simply accept the company’s data.

Frings said he walked the area in previous years for a water source and the area will qualify as wetlands.

The mayor also questioned the lack of identity of an individual involved in the proposed quarry.

&uot;I would like to know who I was dealing with.&uot;

Bobby Phillips, a member of the Calera City Council and chairman of the Calera Water and Sewer Board also raised concerns about impact of the quarry on Calera’s water well.

He said Calera serves about 5,000 people and asked what would happen to those residents who depended on the well if impacted by the quarry.

Another citizen raised the question of a lawsuit filed by the University of Montevallo against Middle Tennessee Land Development Company regarding environmental issues.

The citizen asked for a &uot;delay (in a decision by ADEM) until UM has its day in court.&uot;

Montevallo Mayor Sharon Anderson expressed concerns over the affect on her city’s water supply, support for the University of Montevallo’s Ebenezer Swamp and said unequivocably, &uot;I stand opposed to the quarry.&uot;

During the hearing, a representative of Ebenezer United Methodist Church also expressed concerns about the affect of the proposed quarry on the historic church building.

Dow defended the proposed quarry, noting that while the mailing address of the quarry is Smokey Road, the quarry lacks access there.

He said it would, instead, have access to Highway 119 by way of a private road.

He repeated previous statements that the road is 2,100 feet from Smokey Road and 1,700 feet from Highway 119.

&uot;We intend to be a good neighbor,&uot; Dow said.

He said the area would be kept in a landscaped condition that is &uot;not intrusive.&uot;

Dow said cement is in great shortage across the U.S., especially in the South following the hurricanes that have hit the Gulf Coast. He said six cement suppliers would be the only customers of the operation.

Dow anticipated that the quarry would have a life of 30 to 40 years and that after it is gone, the land will be reclaimed and developed.

Following the meeting, he said, &uot;There are no wetlands on the property.&uot;

Dow said there is a total of 232 acres of land in the overall site, but just 80 acres are approved for the permit application. The actual quarry site, he said, is 44 acres.

Dow noted that there is more limestone in the area, but it is already beneath roads and buildings.

He also said the high quality chemical grade limestone in the proposed quarry site is only 10-to-15 feet below ground.

&uot;That’s one reason the site is so valuable,&uot; Dow said.

Dow said he once threw out a figure that the land was worth $15 million when asked. But, he said, he would not take $15 million for it now.

All comments regarding the quarry proposal must be submitted to ADEM by 5 p.m. on Thursday, Oct. 20 to the following address:

Mr. Ronald W. Gore, Chief

Air Division


1400 Coliseum Blvd.

[Mailing address: PO

Box 301463; Zip 36130-1463]

Montgomery, Alabama


(334) 271-770