After withdrawing their permit applications for a quarry site in March, Creekwood Resources is now testing viability of a new site in Lee County. The previous site, originally to be located just outside of Opelika’s city limits, was met with opposition from nearby residents, from the Cities of Opelika and Auburn and from the Lee County Commission.
During a recent Lee County Commission meeting, multiple residents brought concerns of a potential granite quarry to the Commission. The quarry is planned to be located near Highway 29 and Lee Rd 177.
Residents cited endangered species living in Halawakee Creek, of which the proposed quarry may reach within 25 feet. The creek feeds into Lake Harding, which is the primary water supply for Lee County, Opelika and parts of Auburn.
Residents also brought forward concerns of lowered water levels, increased traffic from upwards of 60 dump trucks per day, treated waste disposed into the creek, noise and silica dust in the air.
“They’re going to be over there setting off explosive charges very close to a subdivision,” Speir said. “Silica dust that a granite quarry puts off is another concern. My home is directly downwind … of where the quarry will be.”
Lee County Commission Judge Bill English explained that limestone quarries cause more damage to the water table than granite quarries. The proposed quarry is a granite quarry, which will share more similarities to the quarry in Lochapoka than in Spring Villa.
Protect Beulah Stop the Quarry group member Ryan Speir has a hunting lease on the property. He was told on Aug. 5 that a gate to the property was left open. Upon further investigation, Speir found Creekwood Resources employees taking soil samples.
Residents had reported rumors of a new quarry since March, though it was not proven until Speir’s encounter. Speir met managing member Jeffery Major on site.
The property is currently owned by Weyerhaeuser Company, which also owns the property where the quarry was intended to be built in March. Land rights are currently being leased to Creekwood Resources for testing purposes, English said.
Creekwood Resources did not have information to disclose to The Plainsman on the project.
Creekwood Resources has not yet filed for an application to the Alabama Department of Environmental Management, which will be required to complete the quarry project. During the permit process, ADEM may hold a public hearing concerning air and water quality.
Though the project may affect local species and cause unwanted noise, ADEM is only concerned with documented air and water concerns, English said.
The Lee County Commission does not have the authority to deny any use on private property, English said. However, he would like to go on the record as against the quarry project.
The Commission unanimously passed a resolution opposing the proposed Beulah quarry, citing damage to air and water, a decrease in property values, harm towards local wildlife, damage to the water table and increased traffic, among other concerns.
The Commission also asked of Opelika, Auburn and Chambers County to pass similar resolutions in opposition of the quarry. The Commission opposes both the current proposal and similar proposals in the future. They also ask that ADEM holds a public hearing for the project.
Out of opposition to the quarry, the Protect Beulah Stop the Quarry group was formed from Beulah and other Lee County residents. The group has printed hundreds of signs, paid for by donations from local businesses. County Commissioner Robert Ham bought a significant number of signs as well, Speir said. The group is also organized on Facebook.
The group has been in contact with local politicians in order to make the proper steps in opposing the quarry. They are also mailing letters to nearby residents.
“I need to give a big thank-you to our county commissioners,” Speir said. “They were all super helpful in this.”
The group has been in contact with biologists at Auburn University concerning endangered wildlife, Speir said. Without federal protection, the group cannot use the wildlife as an argument to stop the quarry, so they are primarily focusing on air and water quality issues.
“Limestone County has an ordinance that bans any future quarries in their county,” Speir said. “We as a group are not 100 % against quarries. They just have a place, and on our creek is not that place.”
Speir said that Weyerhaeuser Company, the company in possession of the land, also owns land near the local waste management facility. He believes this location would be far more agreeable than the current proposed location.
Speir also wants to see Lee County pass limited zoning laws for industry. He did not initially like the idea of zoning, but he now knows it can be done in limited settings such as industry or other business types.
Residents who are opposed to the proposed quarry are asked by the Lee County Commission to submit concerns over air and water pollution to ADEM. The Commission will request for a public hearing if an application for a permit is sent.
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Charlie Ramo, junior in aerospace engineering, is the content editor of The Auburn Plainsman.