Another rude awakening from the Hwy. 63 rock quarry

Published 9:30 pm Tuesday, February 28, 2023

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Folks living in the vicinity of the rock quarry on Hwy. 63 are processing additional damages they say is the direct result of earthquake-worthy blasting at the site. This is not the first time the Speedwell community has had its peace disrupted and their properties affected by the detonations. Last June, two residents came before the Claiborne Commission to plead for relief from the assault on their homes and sanities. A third resident showed up during the latest Commission meeting to voice his grievances following the latest blasting go-round.

Commissioner Steve Brogan said he had visited with a few of his constituents living nearby the quarry. Brogan said those individuals told him the quarry owners had given no warning whatsoever prior to blasting.

“It looks to me like that they would have to let people know when this was going to occur,” said Brogan.

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He asked County Attorney James Estep III just who is responsible for monitoring the company.

Estep said that the TN Dept. of Environment & Conservation would likely be the agency overseeing the blasting operations.

“Each individual property owner also has the right to file their own lawsuit, if they have damages,” said Estep. “You get into their pocketbook – that’s as good as any enforcement mechanism you can find.”

Estep did say that if a complaint is lodged, TDEC would visit the quarry to insure that the operation followed accepted guidelines for a “proper blast.”

He said the quarry is required to keep blasting logs that include what amount and poundage of dynamite was used, when the blasting occurred and the sequence and timing in which it happened.

The commissioners heard from Martin Brown, a Speedwell resident whose home was affected by the latest round of blasting. Brown said he learned that the rock quarry has on-site monitoring.

“This company, by law, has to have seismographs – some are on-site pretty close to where they’re blasting. They have to have four or five people who know what to do when they look at that. It steps down to those who are doing the blasting, those who are actually drilling the holes, loading the holes, shooting the holes.

“I live right there. I’ve never heard one single, solitary ‘hey, fire in the hole. Grab your hat and run.’ Nothing; all you feel is the earth move like an earthquake and then you hear the dishes fall off of the wall. I ask each one of you ‘if this was in your neighborhood and you went out and looked at your house and saw the foundation had new cracks in it, would you do nothing?’” said Brown.

He said the blasting is causing his property values to drop “like a sack of taters off the table.”

Brown said the state currently has no laws on the books limiting how deep the blasting operation can go beneath the surface. He asked whether this could not be amended by the state legislative body if the county asked its state representatives to look into the issue.

Estep was asked to research the legalities and to draft a resolution at the local level requesting the issue be addressed at the state level. As for any local power, he said the county’s hands are effectively tied.

Shortly after the June 2022 blasting, the Claiborne Progress contacted The Rogers Group – the company under which the Hwy. 63 rock quarry runs. Its public relations department responded one week later with a prepared statement.

“Crushed stone from the plant in Speedwell is being used in the Highway 63 improvement project in Claiborne and Campbell Counties. Public notices were issued and all necessary permits to operate the plant were obtained and are on file with Claiborne County,” reads the statement, in its entirety.