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Dirty water? Explosions? Proposed Chester Co. quarry sparks questions.

Chester County SC quarry sparks debate from neighbors

A Chester County, South Carolina quarry has neighbors concerned it will be loud, shake the ground and pollute waterways. The quarry engineer says those concerns are unfounded.
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A Chester County, South Carolina quarry has neighbors concerned it will be loud, shake the ground and pollute waterways. The quarry engineer says those concerns are unfounded.

Some Chester County residents feel stuck between a rock and a hard place.

But they'd rather everyone just leave the rock alone.

HardRock Aggregates wants to put Fishing Creek Quarry at 3337 Fishing Creek Church Road in Edgemoor. The proposed nearly 240-acre site, from which they would get granite, is nearly six miles north of Richburg. According to the public notice from HardRock, the plan is to restore the site to grasslands and a pond when mining is done. The lease would run through 2047.

Residents in the area say they aren't interested in having a quarry so close.

"Where they want to put it is the wrong place," said Joanna Angle, who lives on Blaney Road. "It doesn't fit."

Angle said she's worried about loud noises, explosions that would shake the ground, and trucks moving material on narrow farm-to-town roads. Mostly, she said she worries about nearby Fishing Creek and what environmental impact it might face. Land and water around the quarry are some of the most scenic, historic parts of the county, Angle said.

"I understand the panic of everything you've ever worked for being thrown away," she said. "It's going to get worse before it gets better."

Roxann James, who lives on Steele Village Road, within two miles of the proposed quarry, is leading a group of about 40 people concerned about the site. She says many more people have expressed concerns.

"Of course we're concerned about our well water, that their mining may tap into the water level that we get our drinking water from," James said. "We're all on wells out here."

James said she isn't ready to vilify the quarry team, and she hopes they won't do that to people who live in the area.

"We're intelligent people," James said. "We're going to listen to their side. We'll hope they'll listen to our side."

Jerry Meade, an engineer with mining the consultant firm Meade Gunnell, said he understands residents' concerns but believes many of them will prove unwarranted.

"Everything you have has been mined," Meade said. "You have a car, a road, a house. Those materials had to be mined. There are thousands of mines out there. Some are in metropolitan areas, some are in rural areas."

Meade said he understands that just about any new mine draws some level of protest from people who would live nearby.

"It's fear," he said. "People don't understand. All it is is a construction project."

What's planned

The Charlotte company would mine for granite, clay, gravel and sand, along with the top layer of soil needed to get to them. The quarry would involve the use of explosives. The site would have excavators, bulldozers, haul trucks, drills and pans.

There would be about 20 employees, not counting trucks entering and leaving the site. The initial permit would allow mining on eight acres for 10 years. The mining pit could expand to 28 acres. The plan would be to mine it in two decades, though the lease runs for three.

"It's a small mine," Meade said. "We're looking at making a $12-$15 million investment. The payroll will be about $1 million a year."

Only a quarter of the mined material, he said, would be taken out on trucks. The other three-quarters would leave via rail. Trucks would run Monday through Friday.

"Most of the construction people don't order rock on Saturday and Sunday," Meade said. "There could be some weekend work going on just at the site itself."

Mined material would be used as road base and construction material. The Chester County mine would be a small fraction the size of one now serving the entire Rock Hill market, Meade said, but could offer some competition which might help lower construction material costs.

"You've got to have it," he said. "Right now there's a limited number of vendors."

Fishing Creek runs along the northern and eastern boundary of the site. On the east, there's I-77. Site plans show there would be a 500-foot buffer between the quarry and creek. The site application also states there are no "inhabited structures" within a half mile of the proposed quarry.

The group behind the quarry plan has another site in Kershaw. They built and sold sites in Lowrys, Chesterfield and Seagrove, N.C.

A key concern

A Presbyterian church in the area dates back to 1785, built to replace the one burned down during the Revolutionary War. Lando has a historic schoolhouse not far from the quarry. James said her concerns are linked to blasting and how it would impact those structures, including gravestones at the church.

Then there are more recent housing developments. James said houses are under construction or planned within half a mile. One family already moved into their home, she said.

"There's some brand new houses, just been built, that are within a half mile," she said.

Another concern is water -- from the pond at the Lando dam, popular among locals, to the creek serving as a major selling point for the area.

"People like to fish and play in the water," James said. "Especially the closer you get to Lando."

Residue from a mining operation, she said, won't sit well with people who live nearby. It likely wouldn't help draw new people to the area, she said.

"One of the things that sells that new development is sitting on a pretty creek.," James said.

Angle said a hundred or more trucks a day each hauling tons of material would have all sorts of impacts.

"They have lots of businesses," Angle said. "We have only one community. They're concerned about price. We're concerned about place."

What's next

Erica Knight, spokesperson for the South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control, said a final decision has not been made on whether to allow the quarry.

"The application is in the technical review phase of the process," she said.

A public hearing will be scheduled. Notice will go out to nearby residents at least 30 days in advance, with technical review from the state lasting at least until comments from that meeting are taken and considered.

"A final decision will be made after the public hearing takes place and all comments are considered," Knight said. "We encourage the public to provide written comments and share any concerns with us."

Meade said the timing for his project is "really going to depend on the permit" from the state. It could take three or four months to get started. Groundwater testing and installation of a new monitoring well will take two months. Monitoring results would be made public, going to state and federal environmental regulators.

During the tests, they will look for metals, solids and a "whole slew of items" to ensure clean water, Meade said.

"We are going further and beyond the regulations," he said.

If the project is approved, Meade said residents will find the quarry to be a good neighbor. Blasting is a "very controlled science," he said, and seismographs will monitor every blast. Ground vibration, he said, is "very limited to distance" and existing buildings won't be near enough to be impacted.

"According to South Carolina mining rules, as long as you're 250 feet away from a house, you're fine," Meade said. "We're 10 times that amount away."

He said historic structures aren't of concern, either.

"There is absolutely zero chance of it impacting something two miles away," Meade said.

The shape and size of the mining pit will control sound, he said.

"Once it goes down underground in a pit, you can't see it," Meade said. "You can't hear it. It's underground."

The property is now zoned for some industrial use. It's wooded and used for timber. Long-term, Meade said, the most natural use of the land would come from allowing the quarry. When it leaves, much of the pit will be filled with soil and the rest of it with water.

"We believe the end result of a lake is a lot better than having a bunch of old ugly buildings there," Meade said.

Have something to share?

Written comments can be submitted to Jeremy Eddy, project manager with the SCDHEC Mining and Reclamation Section. His address is 2600 Bull St., Columbia SC, 29201.

Eddy also can be reached via email at eddyje@dhec.sc.gov or by phone at 803-898-7609.

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