Quarry requesting to extend boundaries
Harrison Construction, which holds the mining permit for the Waynesville Quarry, is requesting a permit modification to extend the quarry boundaries on Allens Creek Road.
Todd J. Quigg, president of Harrison Construction Company, said the request made to North Carolina Department of Environment and Natural Resources is to add about 8 acres to the 315-acre mining permit, which would move the required “undisturbed buffer.”
He said he has notified several of the adjacent neighbors in the Allens Creek area of the proposed change, as required by DENR, and the application has been submitted.
The current modification request is the result of a 2009 massive rockslide that occurred at the quarry. The high-wall failure on the ridge in the quarry was caused by an unexpected interaction with fault planes in the rock.
“How we interact with those planes can lead to instability in the mountain,” Quigg said. “We needed to change our whole mining plan after that.”
That incident prompted Harrison to work with a geologist to map out the fault planes and to change the orientation of high walls/safety benches to improve safe mining activity.
The bottom of the quarry pit still looks the same as it did right after the rockslide. DENR will not allow workers to enter the pit for clean up until the entire mountain has been stabilized.
“We have no intention of opening up the ridge,” he said. “We’re just working to make it a safer environment.”
Quigg said stabilization had to begin at the top and work downward. That will be accomplished by creating a 30-foot-wide bench on the rock for every 50-foot wall. The instability was created long before Harrison purchased the quarry in the 80s, according to Quigg. Creating a steep rock wall was common practice in the 60s. Now, the best practice is to create the larger benches so the rocks have a catching point.
Plans are still being developed for how the quarry will proceed with work on the top of the ridge and it will be limited by the amount of space on the permit. Quigg is unsure when or if the quarry would begin work on the top of the ridge because it depends on future demand. Work could go over the ridge by 400 feet to remove the overlaying dirt to reach the rock that can be mined, but the mining would have to move back up the ridge by 100 feet to create the 100-foot buffer.
Quigg understands residents’ concerns when they live close to the quarry, but he said the quarry has provided a vital service in the community since 1962 and “is a driving economic engine.” If there was an easier way to mine rock, he said he’d be happy to do it.
Part of the modification process is public comment, and if enough public comment is received, DENR determines whether a public hearing will be held.
While this modification is not a drastic change, according to Quigg, he knows from experience that the public input portion of the process can open the floodgates for complaints.
Harrison received an enormous amount of community criticism in 2010 when it last requested a permit modification following the rockslide. The last modification request to add 13 acres to the permit led to many complaints from neighbors regarding water quality, noise and other impacts from the quarry.
To avoid the outcry that occurred last time, Quigg said he was trying to be proactive this time “to be a good neighbor.”
He said the quarry has received very little push back historically from the Big Cove Road community, which is directly across from the Quarry on Allens Creek Road. However, residents around Grandview and Leisure Lane are concerned the new modification will hinder their view shed because their homes have a view of the top of the ridge where the quarry is trying to expand.
Residents on the backside of the quarry can’t see the work currently being done because of the spring foliage. If the modification is approved, Quigg said some Lickstone Road residents may be able to see the quarry.
One person Quigg personally reached out to about the new modification request was Michael Rogers, a Lickstone Road resident. He was opposed to the last modification to the quarry permit because of the heavy blasting and the quarry’s negative impact on the creek. While he is not in favor of the new modification request, he said he has tried to develop and working relationship with Quigg and the quarry.
“I don’t want the mountain to come off, but he’s (Quigg) satisfied my major complaints and wrote me a letter saying he will drill me a well if my spring went dry,” Rogers said.
Rogers grew up around the quarry and has always dealt with the rattling of dishes as a result of the blasting. But since the last modification process that forced Harrison into a public hearing, Rogers said the quarry has been good about calling neighbors to warn them of a blast.
Steve Rosenfelt, general manager of Ascot Club at Highland Forest subdivision, said he has heard from many residents in the area who are concerned about the new request. The subdivision is on the other side of the ridge from the quarry. While he values the quarry as an asset to the community and is thankful for the jobs it produces, he takes issue with modification request.
“The area that they are proposing to add to their existing surface mining permit and eventually mine has already proven to be geologically unstable…” he said. “The opportunity to obtain a small amount of material adjacent to residential land owners is not worth the risk and potential for further disaster, considering the quarry has decades worth of land to mine that is not adjacent to residential land owners.”
Rosenfelt said the request does not comply with the denial criteria set forth in the Mining Act of 1971.
”That previous experience with similar operations indicates a substantial possibility that the operation will result in substantial deposits of sediment in stream beds or lakes, landslides, or acid water pollution,” he added.
He also takes issue with the quarry purchasing residential neighbors’ properties to bring its mining operation closer to residents on or near Lickstone Road. He added that people should have the right to own a home and enjoy it quietly without having a big business interfere.
“I feel that the quarry has set boundaries to operate within, and the neighbors have both identified and accepted these boundaries,” Rosenfelt said. “The act of deviating from these established boundaries should not be permissible in my opinion, and I believe a function of government should be to protect residential landowners in a situation like this.”