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Some Tanner residents speak against rock quarry

By Bayne Hughes
hughes@decaturdaily.com 340-2432

ATHENS — What could happen is scary enough to Tanner area residents that they told the Limestone County Commission on Wednesday that they oppose a rock quarry in the area.

The Rogers Group, a Nashville-based company, wants to open a rock quarry on 120 acres off U.S. 31 and Laughmiller Road. The property currently is a strawberry field. The company filed for Alabama Department of Environmental Management permits last week for the project that should take 12 to 18 months.

Petition

Laughmiller Road resident Tracy McLin turned in a petition against the quarry with 467 names, and she was collecting more names after the meeting.

She said the project would affect residents in Houston Place and Swan Creek
Trailer Park, people living on Huntsville-Brownsferry, Griffith, Rosie and Stuart roads, and the Beulah Land area.

About 30 Tanner area residents expressed concerns. They fear the quarry could
affect Browns Ferry Nuclear Plant, home foundations, drinking water, highway bridges and traffic, and the Swan Creek and Pryor Spring wildlife habitats.

McLin said it could affect at least two endangered species, the pygmy sunfish in Pryor Spring and the Eggert's sunflower.

"We don't know that the quarry could affect anything," Houston Place resident Mack Devine said. "But human error exists, and we're assuming it could. We're not assuming that it will."

The nuclear plant is such a concern that Commission Chairman David Seibert said state Sen. Tom Butler, D-Madison, and state Rep. Micky Hammon, R-Decatur, plan to introduce a bill to keep the quarry from building near the plant.

Seibert said the commission does not have the power to stop the quarry project.

The residents' biggest concerns are the damages to the property and insurance costs because of quarry blasting.

Devine said he talked to his insurance company representative, who told him that his homeowner's insurance doesn't cover damage from blasting and the company doesn't offer blasting-damage insurance.

Rogers Group is moving its quarry operations from Elkmont after eight years. District 4 Commission Bill Daws said the only complaint he received from area residents is about traffic. The commission later established a truck route that solved the problems.

In a recent Daily article, Rogers Group General Manager Derek Roberts said the company wants to be closer to the county's growth area. The planned Interstate 65 interchange at Tanner is also a draw.

But residents expressed concern with the group's heavy trucks entering the highway in a high-traffic area that includes Calhoun Community College and Athens State University students and Decatur-Athens commuters.

Dr. Charles Christensen is a past president of the Athens Board of Realtors. He said it "would be inappropriate" to build a quarry in the area and could affect an area in which most expect a growth explosion after the completion of the interchange and a Tennessee Valley Authority megasite about 1 mile away.

He said many would be hesitant to build homes or businesses in this area if there's a quarry there.

Tom Kenley, communications specialists for Rogers Group, said the nuclear plant concern "likely has no basis." Because of advances in blasting techniques, he said, each blast is controlled and targeted to affect only that area necessary to loosen the rock needed at that time for building roads, homes and schools.

"Before blasting in a particular area, thorough studies are conducted by engineers and geologists to make sure that neighboring residences and businesses will not be negatively affected by mining operations," Kenley said.

Once the studies are complete, licensed, bonded blasting professionals, in accord with all applicable legal standards, perform the blasting, Kenley said.

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