ADEM issues Quarry Permits

Tuesday, December 06, 2005

Birmingham News staff writer

The Alabama Department of Environmental Management issued air and water permits Monday that will allow a company to open a limestone quarry just outside Alabaster.

The permits clear the way for Middle Tennessee Land Development to dig for limestone on a 232-acre site off Smokey Road.

Nearby residents, the Shelby County Commission and governments in Alabaster, Calera and Montevallo had asked ADEM to deny the permits, saying the quarry would bring traffic and noise and drive down property values in an area where several new subdivisions have been built in recent years.

They also say the quarry could harm drinking water supplies.

Middle Tennessee Land Development contends the quarry will not harm the area.

"We are obviously satisfied," company Vice President Robert Dow said of ADEM's decision. He said the company met all of ADEM's requirements to get the permit.

"We're looking forward to starting our operation in the very near future," Dow said. He said the company "will probably start moving dirt in January," despite a pending lawsuit filed by the University of Montevallo that contends the quarry would harm a university-owned research swamp nearby.

That case is set for trial Jan. 30.

Alabaster Mayor David Frings said Monday night that he has instructed a lawyer for the city to begin preparing to appeal ADEM's decision to the state Environmental Commission. Frings said he's not giving up fighting the quarry. "I hope Middle Tennessee has some deep pockets because they're going to need them, and a lot of time," Frings said.

Middle Tennessee also has to get permission from Shelby County and the City of Alabaster to build a road from the quarry to Alabama 119. Dow said he expects Alabaster to make an unsuccessful attempt to block the road.

Elected officials expressed disappointment Monday with ADEM's decision to issue the permits.

"I'm really disappointed we can't stop something that is going to do irreparable damage to our environment," said Montevallo City Councilwoman Hollie Cost, who organized an ad hoc committee to fight the quarry.

State Rep. Cam Ward, R-Alabaster, who joined Rep. Mike Hill, R-Columbiana, in asking ADEM to deny the permits, said, "I think it's terrible the way ADEM just signed off on this deal by obviously not looking at the adverse consequences this project is going to have on the residents in this area. "It looks like to me that ADEM gave very little thought or weight to presentations made to them by residents in this area."

Jerome Hand, an ADEM spokesman, said the agency granted the permits after a thorough review of Middle Tennessee's application and of public comments received, including those by residents at an October public hearing in Alabaster.

He said ADEM determined the company had met the agency's "stringent standards" for emission and discharge of pollutants into the air and water. Staff writer

Nancy Wilstach contributed to this report.