Creekwood pens letters to Judge English, Protect Beulah responds
By Will Fairless
Creekwood Resources, LLC sent a letter on Jan. 22 to Judge Bill English, the chairman of the Lee County Commission. The letter was signed by Jeffrey D. Major, a managing member at Creekwood Resources. The letter addressed some issues that have been brought forth in opposition to the proposed Shady Grove Quarry.
In its introduction, the letter reads, “In light of various recent representations, made in a public setting to the Lee County Commission regarding the proposed quarry at Shady Grove, Creekwood Resources, LLC would like to correct some of the inaccurate and misleading information that has been put forth and perhaps ease some of the concerns of the community near the site.”
The following are the topics addressed in the letter and some of Creekwood’s claims regarding each.
- Location: “There are very few locations within Lee or the surrounding counties that have suitable granite for mining/construction aggregate. The possibilities in the area are indeed very limited.” The Shady Grove site is an optimal location for a granite quarry.
- Governmental regulation: Mining activities are highly regulated; they are controlled and monitored by agencies such as the Alabama Department of Environmental Management (ADEM), The Department of Labor, The Corp of Engineers, The State Fire Marshall and the Environmental Protection Administration (EPA). Creekwood submitted a request, which has since been accepted, for ADEM to hold a public hearing to review the community’s concerns about a quarry.
- Surface water: “Halawakee Creek and Lake Harding (located downstream approximately 10.4 river miles) will be unaffected by the presence of the quarry.” This is because the quarry is 1,000 feet from the creek at the closest point. There will be an undisturbed vegetative buffer between the quarry and the creek. All water used on the site and rainwater will be collected in manmade ponds before being recycled. The engineered ponds could also be used by the Beulah Fire Department to relieve some pressure on the city’s water system.
- Dust control: Water will be used to control dust generated by mining activities. No dust emissions will leave the permitted quarry site.
- Traffic: The quarry expects to have six to eight loads of rock leave the quarry per hour, 80% of which are expected to go toward Interstate 85.
- Operating schedule: The quarry will operate at normal business hours, five to six days a week. There are currently no plans to operate at night.
- Blasting: “Blasting will occur on, average, twice per month during normal business hours. Most blasts last less than a second. Blasting is one of the most controlled and scientific of the activities undertaken in mining. It is also one of the most misunderstood.” Dynamite is not used in blasting, and no blasting materials will be kept on the site. The U.S. Bureau of Mines has conducted research into the effect of blasting, concluding that responsibly controlled blasting from quarrying creates vibrations at a peak particle velocity (PPV) of less than 0.5 inches per second (in./s.). Most modern structures are not negatively affected by vibrations with PPVs of 2 in./s. Alabama’s limit on PPV is 1.4 in./s. Creekwood is prepared to offer pre-blast inspections, conducted by a third party and at no cost to home or business owners, to interested nearby property owners.
- Noise: “Topographic barriers or vegetated areas will be used to shield or absorb noise. The impacts of noise will be mitigated through various engineering techniques. Landscaping, and vegetated berms will be constructed to form sound barriers.”
- Additional industry and jobs: “It is not uncommon to co-locate an asphalt plant and/or ready-mix concrete plant near a quarry. Should facilities such as these be located at the proposed Shady Grove Quarry, they will most likely be owned by companies other than CreekWood, however, their activities will be monitored by CreekWood to assure their compliance with environmental standards as well as ensuring that their activities are in keeping with acceptable community standards.”
On Jan. 28, Protect Beulah Stop the Quarry posted on Facebook in response to the Jan. 22 letter. The following are the topics addressed in the post and some of the claims made regarding each.
- Location: Alabama has a huge granite vein that runs through it. “There are plenty of other locations this quarry could be placed. We feel that the location was chosen for several reasons that does not apply to availability for granite.” The reasons listed are that the property and surrounding properties are owned by people and businesses that will be cooperative with the quarry, proximity to Interstate 85, the fact that the proposed site is outside the city limits of Opelika and, “CreekWood thinks the population of our area does not have the financial resources to stand up to Corporate America.” The post goes on to claim that Creekwood has not taken into account that the quarry will be a major disruption to the livelihood and well-being of the community in which it will be located.
- Governmental regulation: ADEM will regulate operations based on water and air quality only. “They do not regulate noise, safety, traffic, blasting, vibrations from blasting, time of operation, road conditions, health of the surrounding community, etc.”
- Surface water: Creekwood cannot 100% state that failure to its water containment structures will not happen. “Even though the quarry may not change the status of the drinking water, dust will still settle within the creek and eventually be consumed by residents of Lee County (We all know extra filaments are allowed in the water report and water still be considered “Safe” to drink).”
- Dust control: Water spray trucks will help some, but they will not prevent all dust from rising. “’No dust emissions will leave the quarry site.’. . . This statement was made to only appease those that might not know the difference.” ADEM does have standards regarding dust emissions but will not be on site seven days a week to monitor the quarry’s dust emissions.
- Traffic: Creekwood does not account for the fact that trucks have to make trips to and from the quarry, so a count of 6-8 loads means there will be 12-16 combined exits from and returns to the quarry. The potential addition of other industries around the quarry would greatly increase traffic.
- Blasting: Creekwood has stated that the Shady Grove quarry will likely operate only five to six days a week and during regular business hours, but the permit Creekwood applied for allows for 24/7 operation. That fact, along with the fact of the questionable calculations Creekwood did regarding traffic, the company’s statement that there will be blasting only twice a month is not the most trustworthy. There may be negative effects on well water, aquifers and septic systems. Creekwood’s letter explained that “modern” buildings should not be negatively affected by blasting, but it says nothing of older structures. “Thank you CreekWood for offering the pre-Quarry structural evaluations of the surrounding homes. We hope home owners will take you up on that offer.” There has not yet been a definitive statement on which business and home owners will be offered those evaluations, nor has there been any statement that Creekwood will pay for potential damages to those evaluated structures.
- Noise: The community around the proposed quarry site currently only has to deal with occasional loud noises (e.g., from gunshots and Tannerite explosions), which will be dwarfed by those from quarry operations but which also demonstrate that a vegetative buffer is not sufficient to sufficiently dampen noises of that level.
- Additional industry and jobs: Additional industries are incorporated in the permit applications submitted to Creekwood, which industries are eyesores and nuisances.
- Other notes: Creekwood needs to be held responsible for any decreases in home or property value that result from the quarry. This will be the first quarry that Creekwood, a one-year-old company, will be developing from the ground up.
Creekwood Resources sent another letter to the Lee County Commission on Feb. 1 that specifically addressed traffic. According to the letter, Creekwood contacted Skippers Consulting (which has, according to the letter, performed traffic studies for the cities of Auburn and Opelika, Auburn University, and the Alabama Department of Transportation) to conduct a traffic study with the Shady Grove quarry’s effect as its subject.
The letter states that the study concluded that the average vehicle count on Highway 29 (currently 6,085) will increase to 6,250 (a 2.7% increase) after the quarry opens.
English made the following statement. “We have indeed engaged legal counsel to advise us about how best to proceed. We won’t know whether there will be a lawsuit until they present us with more information. Any updates will likely be in executive session because of the potential for litigation. The letter from CreekWood will not really have any effect.”
The Jan. 22, Feb. 1 letters from Creekwood are available in their entirety at opelikaobserver.com/creekwood-resources-sends-letters-to-county-commission-regarding-shady-grove-quarry/. The Protect Beulah Stop the Quarry post referenced in this article is available in its entirety at the Facebook page by the same name as the organization and at opelikaobserver.com/protect-beulah-stop-the-quarry-responds-to-creekwood-letter-in-facebook-post/.