Issues and Concerns
Vulcan Materials is planning a 1,000-acre rock quarry near Center, between Rt 441 and Chandler Bridge Road: Join us in fighting the quarry!
JUST ADDED: LETTER OF CONCERN FROM THE OCONEE RIVERS GREENWAY COMMISSION TO THE ATHENS-CLARKE COUNTY MAYOR AND COMMISSION:
There are many reasons to oppose the proposed Vulcan quarry and future plant operations on 1,000 acres in south Jackson County between Chandler Bridge Rd and Hwy 441. Water pollution is one of the largest issues.
A “sister” community in Texas that is fighting a similar battle over a proposed Vulcan quarry issued the following list of water-related risks :
Below is research information and a map that explain the magnitude of the problem.
The proposed Vulcan quarry, concrete, and gravel operation is directly on top of the largest of Jackson County's four ground water recharge areas (GWRAs). GWRAs are defined as "those portions of the earth's surface where water infiltrates into the ground to replenish an aquifer."
This area accounts for about 50% of the total ground water recharge area in Jackson County. Significant Recharge Areas of the State have been mapped by the Department of Natural Resources (DNR); see the map below of the relevant area (with the groundwater recharge area highlighted in yellow) overlayed with the map that Vulcan has handed out to neighbors, showing that their operations would indeed be directly over this important water resource.
The nature of this area is such that quarrying and other related activities in this area will directly impact ground water quality and may impact the actual wells which are critical for livestock and crop farming in this mostly agricultural area of Southeastern Jackson County.
Below are citations from studies on the impact of quarrying in identified GWRAs.
Georgia DNR regulations ask specifically: "Will the action result in the disturbance or altering of a groundwater recharge area?” Per studies cited below, a quarry would have a substantial impact.
From a Texas Study on quarrying impact:
"Quarrying can disrupt the existing movement of surface water and groundwater. It can interrupt natural water recharge and lead to reduced quantity and quality of drinking water for residents and wildlife near or downstream from a quarry "
From a Toronto study on quarrying impact:
"Pits and quarries disrupt the existing movement of surface water and groundwater; they interrupt natural water recharge and can lead to reduced quantity and quality of drinking water for residents and wildlife near or downstream from a quarry site.”
From a study in India:
“By the long-term water-rock interaction within the stone quarries, flouride and salt from these stone quarry rocks are released out and then accumulated in the groundwater aquifers in the region.”
The information above was sent by a former Jackson County Planning Commissioner who stated: "In addition to other concerns of the residents, the issues documented in these studies point to serious environmental, health and farming issues which will dominate this area which is largely served by wells for drinking water. In summary it is my opinion, supported by an abundance of data, that this is potentially the worst possible place in Jackson County that you could consider putting a quarrying operation."
We ask that you continue writing to the Jackson County Board of Commissioners (see list below) as well as spread the word to neighbors and friends and ask them to sign up using the "Join" tab above and join the fight.
Vulcan did not file an application for a Special Use Permit or rezoning in time for the August Planning Commissioner meeting, but they have not given up.
We need to keep putting up a solid front of opposition. You may have seen the “Stop the Rock Quarry” street signs, and some are still available on a first-come, first-serve basis; call 470-660-6957 to obtain one. When those signs are gone, more will be available for purchase. See www.citizensforsustainablejackson.org for information on sign and t-shirt purchase.
Jackson County Commissioners:
firstname.lastname@example.org Marty Seagraves District 4 (impacted area commissioner)
email@example.com Jim Hix District 1
firstname.lastname@example.org Chas Hardy District 2
email@example.com Chad Bingham District 3
firstname.lastname@example.org Marty Clark District 5
email@example.com BOC chair
Thanks for your support.
“Stop the Rock Quarry” Committee
Note that Vulcan already operates a quarry in N. Jackson and perhaps 2 years ago, Vulcan applied for an expansion. Despite massive citizen opposition to the expansion, our BOC voted in favor of the expansion. The only BOC votes against the expansion were Chas Hardy and Marty Seagraves.
Note that this expanded quarry opened in early May 2023.
Vulcan is a large company with an expert PR department. They will be prepared to counter ANY suggestions of negative community impact. That happened in the BOC meeting that resulted in their expansion in N. Jackson.
From the Vulcan Website: Vulcan Materials Company is the nation’s largest producer of construction aggregates—primarily crushed stone, sand and gravel—and a major producer of aggregates-based construction materials, including asphalt and ready-mixed concrete. Our coast-to-coast footprint and strategic distribution network align with and serve the nation’s growth centers.
Jackson Herald articles, July 2023
No application yet for proposed rock quarry, Jul 25, 2023
Vulcan Materials Company hasn’t yet formally filed for a rezoning or special use with Jackson County officials for a planned rock quarry in South Jackson.
The firm has been acquiring property-purchase commitments from landowners between Hwy. 441 and Chandler Bridge Rd. for around 800-1,000 acres for the project.
While no formal action has yet been taken, the activist group Citizens for Sustainable Jackson are opposing the project. In an email to its members, CSJ noted that the area of the proposed quarry is a vital groundwater recharge location in the county.
“This area accounts for about 50% of the total ground water recharge area in Jackson County,” said CSJ.
The group is also putting up signs opposing the quarry and is soliciting members to email members of the Jackson County Board of Commissioners in opposition.
Vulcan operates a quarry near Jefferson along I-85 and is in litigation in neighboring Franklin County over plans for a quarry there.
BUFFINGTON: Quarry plans looks to be a difficult decision for county leader
Jul 26, 2023
That is an issue that will be looming in the coming months as Vulcan Materials Company makes plans for the quarry and to ask the Jackson County Board of Commissioners for rezoning/special use for the project.
For those who’ve not followed this issue, Vulcan has been acquiring speculative land deals for 800-1,000 acres between Hwy. 441 and Chandler Bridge Rd. near the Clarke County line in Center for a quarry. The firm operates a similar rock quarry just north of I-85 near Jefferson; that quarry was expanded earlier this year despite some community protest about the plans.
The South Jackson quarry would, in part, replace a rock quarry being closed in Clarke County and it would help feed the growth of the larger Athens area south and east.
To sweeten the pot, the firm has reportedly offered the Jackson County government some inducements, including land for a future park site and cheap access to gravel for its own road department use.
But not everyone is a fan.
The activist group Citizens for South Jackson has come out opposed to the project, as have some neighbors to the proposed quarry site.
In a recent email, the CSJ drilled down on a quarry’s impact on groundwater. Said that email:
“The proposed Vulcan quarry, concrete, and gravel operation is directly on top of the largest of Jackson County’s four ground water recharge areas (GWRAs). GWRAs are defined as ‘those portions of the earth’s surface where water infiltrates into the ground to replenish an aquifer.’ This area accounts for about 50% of the total ground water recharge area in Jackson County.”
The area does indeed appear to be mapped as a groundwater recharge area by the state. At the county level, the UDC codes discuss an overlay in recharge areas to regulate septic tanks and other uses that might affect recharge zones. Landfills, for example, aren’t allowed in such areas.
But the county code is silent about quarries and their use or impact in groundwater recharge zones. They don’t appear to be banned from recharge areas.
But CSJ quotes from three studies about quarry impacts on recharge zones, including one from Texas, that said: “Quarrying can disrupt the existing movement of surface water and groundwater. It can interrupt natural water recharge and lead to reduced quantity and quality of drinking water for residents and wildlife near or downstream from a quarry.”
So this fight could come down to an environmental issue and attract a lot of attention from nearby residents in Clarke County who live downstream from the proposed site.
It wouldn’t be the first big environmental fight in that area, either. The former Louisiana-Pacific plant in Center was a huge, huge environmental issue in the 1990s. That plant drew a lot of attention across the nation as neighbors fought against its air quality issues. (LP had similar problems at other plants across the nation and was eventually fined millions of dollars by the federal government. The Center LP facility closed in 2008.)
The Vulcan proposal in South Jackson isn’t the only quarry fight happening in the state.
Last year in neighboring Franklin County, Vulcan sued the county government over zoning issues related to a proposed quarry site on Hwy. 59 near Lavonia. Quarry fights are also reportedly happening in Talbot, Carroll and Crawford counties over quarry proposals. Hancock County turned down a quarry two years ago.
Why is all this happening?
Because Georgia is booming and the demand for gravel for construction and roads has soared. The quarry companies are responding to that consumer demand.
And there are two other considerations: First, quarries can only locate where there is rock; second, quarries like to locate in rural areas where they can get enough land that’s away from intensive other development — and higher prices.
That puts a bullseye on rural areas like South Jackson where there is available rock and large tracts of (mostly) undeveloped land.
This is going to be a difficult decision for county leaders. As a consumer of gravel, the county understands its importance and how the market works. The quarry could not only be a source of revenue for the county (the land will likely be worth more developed as a quarry than its current use), but other aspects could save the county money as well. There is a financial incentive for the county to approve the project.
On the other hand, there is sure to be a huge public outcry against the proposal from those living in the South Jackson area. If those opposed can outline a clear argument of extensive environmental damage from a quarry in the area, county leaders will have a difficult time approving it no matter what the financial incentives might be.
Quarries have to be built somewhere to provide a major source of raw material for growth.
But once built, they can last for a long, long time before they’re tapped out. In 100 years, what will future county leaders do with a giant hole in the ground in that area?
Perhaps it will be a future county water resource (which is what Clarke County is doing with the quarry closing there.)
Or it could just be a giant hole that brings a host of unforeseen problems for future leaders to deal with.
Tough decision, this one.