A community group has reached a settlement with a mining company, clearing the way for a controversial new quarry in Lexington County.
Under an agreement approved by a state Administrative Law Court judge last week, Vulcan Materials Company promised to increase protections on the 553-acre site near Leesville and allow for more community oversight. The anti-quarry group Ridge Protection Coalition agreed to withdraw its appeal of Vulcan’s various permits as part of the deal.
“It represents a real significant win for the community in terms of being able to manage a facility that is not welcome there,” the coalition’s attorney Bob Guild said. “But, given the fact that (SC) laws will allow it to operate, it will be managed with the community’s interests best in mind.”
The agreement sets the stage for Vulcan to start work on the project. The company hopes to start operations next year, according to Vice President of Permitting Jimmy Fleming
Guild said the settlement would require Vulcan increase its water and air quality monitoring from the mine’s operations. The quarry must also monitor “fugitive dust” stirred into the air. It would also create require the company replace any offsite wells for neighbors impacted by dewatering operations. It also limits night machinery operations.
However, the most significant concession would create a citizen’s advisory committee which would settle disputes between Vulcan and neighboring properties.
Vulcan Materials said it was pleased with the settlement and hopes the citizen’s committee can increase confidence and reassurance among nearby residents. “We want to be a good neighbor and community member,” Fleming told South Carolina Radio Network. “We’re going to be here for a long time.”
South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control (DHEC) regulators approved a mining permit for the site in December 2016. The Ridge Protection Coalition appealed the permit, as well other permits for air quality and water discharges.
DHEC will require the site four miles east of Leesville to have monitoring wells for monitoring groundwater levels or any potentially 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.”
Vulcan 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.