EBSCO, White Rock speak to Vincent council

Published 9:40 am Wednesday, February 17, 2010

The Vincent Town Council had EBSCO Industries and White Rock Mining, two foes on opposite sides of the town’s heated quarry debate, come before the council Feb. 16 to present their arguments.

The meeting was held at the Vincent Fire Department to allow more room for onlookers, and the Vincent planning commission was there to listen, along with a capacity, standing-room only crowd.

EBSCO President F. Dixon Brooke Jr. stood first to explain why his company became involved with the quarry debate in the first place. EBSCO’s Vulcan Information Plant stands within a half-mile of the proposed quarry location.

“The quarry poses a dilemma to Vincent and to our VIP operation,” Brooke said. “We have been part of the Vincent community for over 41 years. We wanted to understand what the potential issues might be, so we went to work.”

Brooke introduced Uday Bhate of Bhate Geosciences Corporation, who spoke about the danger of sinkholes in the Vincent area and how the proposed quarry would increase that danger.

“The sinkholes that have occurred in this area are quite significant. It is known that quarry operations and dewatering operations will speed up the sinkhole process,” he said. “If there were to be a sinkhole condition develop under the (VIP) plant or in the area, it would, as a matter of fact, shut it down.”

Bhate stressed the quarry operation would require dewatering, which is the process of removing or draining water from the mine shaft.

“I’ve had an opportunity to review the information presented by White Rock, and there’s really no argument quarries cause sinkholes,” Bhate said. “Repairing sinkholes can take a lot of time and a lot of money.”

White Rock President Jim Hurley said his company is looking out for Vincent.

“We’re very interested in the well-being and safety of the citizens of Vincent,” he said.

Geologist Robert Wood, a White Rock adviser, said EBSCO officials seemed to feel no other industries could survive around a quarry, which isn’t the case.

“If you look at quarries around Alabama, there are factories, towns and cities there,” he said. “A lot of Alabamians drive around quarries all the time and they never even know it.”

Wood opposed Bhate’s stance on dewatering, saying dewatering is only one possible cause of sinkholes. Wood termed dewatering “a minor cause.”

“There are already problems with the plant and the area that White Rock had nothing to do with,” he said.

Environmental lawyer Rob Fowler said the no-quarry activists were engaging in scare tactic, referring specifically to a flyer passed out at the meeting claiming a negative impact from the quarry was “inevitable.”

“Think about the evolution of what’s happened in the past year. We had claims that we had paid money to each (council member). We had claims that Jim Hurley was the mayor’s roommate in college. We had people try to annex Vincent into Harpersville,” he said, brandishing the flyer. “This is just another scare tactic.”

At the end of the meeting, Brooke spoke one last time, saying he just wants to hear answers.

“What they did not answer for us was how they were going to keep their activities from being a problem,” he said of White Rock. “I haven’t heard any solutions.”