Fort Mill Times

Panhandle residents buoyed by noise reports at cement plants

Kenneth Cauthen and Amy Bowers of the Lancaster County Building and Zoning Department take sound readings at the property line between Brookchase and the Blue Dot cement factory last August.
Kenneth Cauthen and Amy Bowers of the Lancaster County Building and Zoning Department take sound readings at the property line between Brookchase and the Blue Dot cement factory last August.

The battle between Brookchase residents and Lancaster County is cranking up after a report by an independent sound engineer revealed that sounds coming from nearby cement factories were "not normally expected in residential areas."

For more than six months, many of the residents of Brookchase and Lakeview Landing have complained to the county council about noise coming from the three cement plants, Blue Dot Readi-Mix, MacLeod Construction and Concrete Supply, in Perimeter 521 Commerce Park, which borders Brookchase. Nearby a fourth factory, Cemex, is under construction but not yet running.

None of the plants returned calls for comment by press time.

The Blue Dot Readi-Mix cement plant has been the source of most of the concerns. Residents complain it makes loud noises as early as 3 a.m., creates an excessive amount of dust and keeps its lights on late into the evening.

After pressure from homeowners, the Lancaster County Council hired Dr. Noral Stewart of Charlotte-based Stewart Acoustical Services to perform independent sound measurements to determine if the concrete factories are in violation of the county's Unified Development Ordinance, which quantifies the sound pressure level allowed, in decibels, by a facility such as Blue Dot.

The report, released Monday, said sound readings were taken over a four-day period at three locations within Brookchase, adjacent to the concrete factories. After measuring sound during the day and night, the report concluded that noise from the factories was "greater than normally expected or permitted in many locations."

Last August, building and zoning officials monitored sound levels in Brookchase and found no violations of the noise ordinance.

The county's noise regulations, set forth in the UDO, are outdated, the report said, adding that it's based on "obsolete measurement methods."

The county is consulting with the magistrate to determine if, based on the report, the concrete factories are in violation of the UDO.

But because of the outdated code, County Administrator Steve Willis said he isn't sure a violation of the current code is enforceable.

"The concern is that the way it is written, do we have an actual violation of the code as written?" Willis said.

The county will work with Stewart to create an enforceable noise ordinance, according to Willis.

In an e-mail to Willis, resident Michael Hansen expressed his frustration over the continued noise coming from the neighboring cement factories.

"I don't know if you can imagine how it is to be forced to live next to these plants when they operate in their usual manner," Hansen said. "I respectfully request that you hold [them] responsible for their actions. Now."

If a business is found to be in violation of the UDO, the maximum penalty allowed is a $500 fine, Willis added.

"Even if we could issue a ticket right now, the company could just pay the ticket every day as the cost of doing business," Willis said.

"That's the most that we can do to them."

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