Vincent quarry opponent group hosts panel of experts

Published 5:27 pm Friday, July 31, 2009

In response to White Rock Quarries’ panel of experts from the company’s informational meeting two weeks ago, Vincent Historical and Environmental Society hosted an expert panel of their own Thursday night.

Those experts’ take on the quarry’s impact to the Vincent area was much different than that of the experts at the White Rock meeting.

Dr. Paul Schomer, an acoustical engineer, said the quarry’s blasting would have major noise effects, especially on houses close by.

He said for those living within 500-2,500 feet, the noise could potentially be comparable to being near a major airport. For those living within 2,500-10,000 feet, the noise could be equivalent to being near a busy road. No matter how far away, however, the blasting would affect everyone in the community at some point, he said.

“A close-by quarry will change the character of the (Vincent) community,” Schomer said. “Everyone will experience loud noise disturbances some of the time.”

Such noise could have a negative effect on the health of Vincent citizens. Living with such noise “can raise the blood pressure and the heart rate,” Schomer said.

Kathryn Wurzel, a toxicologist, spoke about the effect the quarry could have on air quality.

She said the quarry’s dust control methods could not control all the dust, especially when it came to “fugitive dust,” which is dust that is not produced by the plant itself but by events around the plant, such as construction of the berm, movement of on-site equipment and off-site trucks.

Wurzel brought up the impact of heavy truck traffic. She said in fatal heavy truck accidents, occupants of the trucks die 17 percent of the time. Occupants of other vehicles die 75 percent of the time, with pedestrians and bicyclists making up the other 8 percent.

She also said while the Alabama Department of Environmental Management is supposed to inspect such quarries twice a month, inspections don’t always happen when they should because of low staff numbers and budget issues.

Even when inspections occur, inspectors aren’t always getting the full picture, she said.

“Even if they show up to inspect the quarry, what happens one day may not be what happens another day,” she said.

Rita Grub, a Lee County resident who lives close to a rock quarry, spoke about her negative experiences with noise, heavy traffic and water quality issues.

“They’re kind enough to wait until 6:30 a.m. to start the crushers and the rock hammers,” she said. “I live in a perpetual destruction zone.”

In a telephone interview Friday, White Rock representative Stephen Bradley said the charges levied against quarries were baseless.

He said the noise level would be much lower than Schomer said.

“In the first place, no one will be living within 500-2,500 feet. The nearest residence is 3,000 feet away,” he said. “In fact, the level of noise from this quarry operation will be below the level of most household activity.”

He said blasting would not be a disturbance, but that the noise from blasting would be “comparable to distant thunder,” if even that.

Bradley said any blasting at the proposed quarry would be, at most, a third of what is allowed by law.

Dust would not be a problem because of dust control methods White Rock officials plan to use, including loading vehicles and railcars in an enclosed area, utilizing a sprinkler system, and locating the primary crusher 60 feet down into the earth. He also said truck traffic would be extremely low because of the use of railcars.

“Ninety-five percent of the product will leave by rail,” he said. “A single train with an average of 100 cars is the equivalent of 500 trucks.”