Residents oppose Vulcan quarry

RIDGEWAY – The announcement last week that Vulcan Materials plans to open an $18M granite quarry in Fairfield County, just north of the county’s 1,500-acre megasite in Ridgeway, was hailed as good news for the county from an economic development standpoint.

Neighbors in the rural area of the proposed quarry, however, came to county council Monday night to express their fears that the quarry could be harmful to their properties and to them by spreading cancer-causing dust, depleting the ground water that feeds their water wells and polluting their air. They called on county council for support in their opposition to the giant mining company locating near their homes.

Rob Black, who lives on Highway 21 near the proposed quarry said his family has lived on their property for 90 years and he worries that the noise and dust from the blasting and rock crushing will go on not only through the daytime, but through the night as well.

“I went to the open house that Vulcan hosted,” Black said. “They avoided answering our questions about whether they would be blasting past the edge of the granite deposit into the soil and water tables. They assured us that the cancer causing dust they produce wouldn’t be a problem since they spray water on their crushers. We worry about what Vulcan isn’t telling us.”

Black’s wife, Michelle, expressed other concerns.

“It’s not the blasting that will be the largest source of noise and disturbance,” She told council. “It’s the constant drilling of the blasting holes and the crushers running constantly.”

The company is in the process of applying for the necessary permits from Fairfield County and the Department of Health and Environmental Control (DHEC).

In an emailed statement to The Voice last month, Elliott Botzis, vice president and general manager for Vulcan Materials in S.C., said the Fairfield quarry will serve as a catalyst for economic growth and will supply building materials for nearby homes, businesses and infrastructure while creating good-paying jobs and generating needed revenue.

Kevin Thomas, who lives near the proposed quarry site said that catalyst for economic growth may not be worth the risks it poses to neighboring homes.

“We have great concerns about the potential loss of our water wells and the dust and noise of blasting that will risk the destabilization of the foundations of our homes that come with any quarry,” Thomas said. “This proposed quarry is only targeting to bring 15 jobs to Fairfield County, many of whom will reside outside the county and take their dollars with them. With that potentially happening for just 15 jobs, is this project worth what it will cost the Fairfield residents who live near that quarry?” Thomas asked.

Vulcan operates 16 facilities in the state, including its Blair quarry in Fairfield County and Columbia and Dreyfuss quarries in Richland County. The company plans to open another quarry in Lexington later this fall.

Thomas told council that the quarry Vulcan built across the county in Blair brings in only $30,000 in tax revenue, and has already caused untold damage to roads in that area.

“They won’t even have their equipment registered in South Carolina,” Thomas said. “It’s registered in North Carolina, and the blasting and dust from this quarry could potentially keep jobs away from Fairfield’s nearby megasite.”

“While we’re concerned about the dust and the noise that the quarry will create, our water is our main issue,” property owner David Ray said. “There’s no county water out there. You think about losing your water. If we lose our well water, we’re out of water. And this quarry is being built right next to Horse Creek Branch which flows into Little Wateree Creek,” Ray said. “Please consider that.”

In an interview with The Voice, County Council Chairman Neil Robinson said that when the land is zoned for a particular use, there’s not a lot that the county can do to directly influence a situation like this.

“I would like to arrange a community forum about the quarry and hear more from the residents’ about their concerns. I would hope that not only the county could meet with the residents but that Vulcan officials would also attend and be able to answer questions and provide documentation,” Robinson said. “I think that’s one of the first things we need to do. Our citizens need to have a voice in this. This process is in its infancy right now, so I think we have some time.”

Vulcan officials could not be reached for comment.

Of its 909.7 acres along I-77, Vulcan officials say only 127.7 (14 percent) will be mined. Approximately 86 percent of the site will remain unmined, including setbacks, buffers, natural landscape and wildlife habitat areas, according to Vulcan’s statement.