Residents who live near the site of a proposed granite quarry in Lexington County have appealed a decision by state regulators to grant mining permits for the 553-acre site.
The South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control (DHEC) approved a mining permit to Vulcan Materials on December 29, as well as an air quality permit. Under DHEC agency rules, residents who oppose the proposed quarry near Leesville have the ability to request the overseeing DHEC board review and potentially reconsider the permits.
Mel Browne of the Ridge Protection Coalition said the organization filed such a request last week. The board will decide whether to reconsider the permit at its upcoming meeting. The Ridge Protection Coalition was formed in 2015 by residents who live near the site. More than 100 people attended a public hearing about the permits in September.
Browne said neighbors have concerns about the impact mining will have on their groundwater wells, particularly as Vulcan dewaters the site for digging. “That area does not have city or county water supply,” he told South Carolina Radio Network. “Everyone around the area is on individual wells for their drinking water, laundry and showers. So the question is: what impact will that have on the surrounding water supplies?”
Vulcan has argued, with the backing of DHEC regulators, that the dewatering process would have little impact outside of a half-mile radius from the proposed mine. The company plans to quarry roughly 131 acres of surface area, with more than 200 acres acting as a buffer. As a condition for receiving the permit, Vulcan agreed to provide bottled water to residents and pay for new water sources if the dewatering does have an impact.
“We appreciate that DHEC worked closely with the community and listened carefully to input from neighbors to help us develop a responsive and community-focused plan that will bring sustainable economic growth and opportunity to the area,” the company said in an emailed statement. “We remain committed to Lexington County and will continue to listen to the community moving forward.”
But Browne said he does not think the promise goes far enough. “We probably are not real confident that the conditions will protect us to the degree that we would like,” he said.
DHEC will require the site four miles east of Leesville to have monitoring wells for monitoring groundwater levels or any potential hazardous chemical amounts after mining work starts. But the agency’s staff was confident there would not be an impact on groundwater more than a half-mile from the site. “There is a low potential for water supply wells to be impacted at a distance greater than a 1/2 mile from the pit boundary,” the agency said in mine documents. “However DHEC can require additional well inventories at a greater distance if deemed necessary based on the groundwater monitoring data from observation wells.”
Residents with Ridge Protection also have concerns about mine blasting and the quarry’s impact to their overall property values. “It’s not like this is going to be a big economic boon for the area,” Browne said, noting the 14 new jobs that Vulcan said it hopes to create. “Not a lot of folks would choose to live next to a quarry if they were making an informed decision.”
Vulcan did agree to reroute a truck entrance route that would have initially gone across George Crapps Road — a secondary rural road. Instead, the company moved its future entrance to U.S. Highway 1 to avoid wetlands impact and to provide a more stable roadway for trucks.
The company hopes to begin construction work at the site later this year, with mining operations scheduled to begin next year.