Residents push back against new quarry in Gurley

Residents push back against new quarry in Gurley
(Source: WAFF 48 News)
(Source: WAFF 48 News)
Chris Herwig (Source: WAFF 48 News)
Chris Herwig (Source: WAFF 48 News)
(Source: WAFF 48 News)
(Source: WAFF 48 News)
(Source: WAFF 48 News)
(Source: WAFF 48 News)

GURLEY, AL (WAFF) - Work has started on a new rock quarry in Gurley at the base of Keel Mountain. But residents aren't happy about the project, voicing concerns about the proximity to their homes.

A town hall was hosted by a group of citizens to discuss the matter Tuesday night.

Chris Herwig spoke out about his fears over the impact it will have on his neighborhood. He enjoys living on Keel Mountain with his wife and children.

"I love our neighbors. We have a tight-knit community," he said.

The Herwigs and other residents on the mountain say they just learned last week that the McCord Limestone Quarry, owned by local developer Brian McCord, is going in at the base of Keel Mountain along Highway 72. Its location is not far from another nearby quarry on the outskirts of town.

A window to share public comments and concerns with the state passed before many knew about it, and permits have already been issued for work to start.

"We have a school from where the permit was issued that's only 2.3 miles away from where he'd be blasting. We're worried about the blasting right here on our neighborhood," Herwig said.

Around 200 people have joined a group of concerns citizens. A public meeting was held Tuesday night at the Keel Mountain Fire Department.

An estimated 1,000 people live on the mountain and residents don't like the quarry's location.

"The biggest question we have is why here? You can see from the mountains behind me that there are tens of thousands of unpopulated acres he could be blasting on. Why right here in our neighborhood? Why would he put any of us at risk? We don't know," Herwig said.

Residents have structural concerns for their homes when it comes to detonations from the quarry.

"Our first concern is the health and safety of our families. We don't know what high yield detonations would do to the structural integrity of the area around us and where our homes are sitting," Herwig said.

He also expressed public safety and health concerns.

"We don't know if there's radon in the mountains that would be disturbed that could cause a risk. We have more questions than anything else that we need answered. We're hoping that we can have those questions answered before this is allowed to go any further," he said.

Residents also worry about the value of their properties going down and the defacement of the land.

"First and foremost, it's our safety. We're worried about that. We are concerned with the aesthetics of the mountain and the close proximity to the mountain, as well as Highway 72. It's very close, uncomfortably so," Herwig added.

Another viewer shared their opinion about another rock quarry being located in Gurley.

"Gurley area is and used to be beautiful but now the first thing you see when you drive through it is a defaced mountain. The mountains and farm land around Gurley, if you get away from the highway, are beautiful country. Keel Mountain has beautiful areas," they wrote in a message. "The citizens are tired of companies defacing the land and having no say!!"

Ron Gore, head of the Air Division for the Alabama Department of Environmental Management (ADEM), said public comments on the quarry project started Oct. 4 and ran for 30 days.

The state did not receive comments. Many residents said they were unaware of the time frame before it was too late.

Permits were issued Nov. 7, authorizing the owner to begin project. Trees are being cleared from the site.

Gore said ADEM relies on research from the EPA when it comes to radon. The EPA has regulations on radon, but they're largely applicable to large scale mines that deal with uranium.

The EPA, Gore added, has not said there's been a concern when it comes to levels of radon emitted from limestone quarries. The absence of any regulations indicates that it's not a big health problem, he added.

The owner of the quarry was contacted for comment but calls have not yet been returned.

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