Fayette County

Neighbors oppose Lexington rock quarry's request to expand

Vulcan Materials Co., which operates a rock quarry on Elk Lick Falls Road, is seeking a conditional use permit to allow it to blast underground on an adjacent Fayette County farm.
Vulcan Materials Co., which operates a rock quarry on Elk Lick Falls Road, is seeking a conditional use permit to allow it to blast underground on an adjacent Fayette County farm.

A rock quarry seeking approval to expand in southeastern Fayette County will face stiff opposition from neighbors when its request goes before the Urban County Board of Adjustment on Friday.

Vulcan Materials Co. is asking the board for a conditional use permit to extend its underground mining into an adjoining 135 acres along Turner Station Road in the Old Richmond Road area.

Neighbors oppose the expansion because of worries that more mining will increase air and water pollution and open more surface sinkholes in surrounding farmland.

Blasting causes damage to homes, and trucks cause trouble on the road, said Gloria Martin, a former member of the Urban County Council who owns a farm on Grimes Mill Road.

"Generally speaking, their mining operation is a nuisance and poses a serious safety hazard, both from their blasting and their trucks," said Martin, who served on the committee that drafted Lexington's mining ordinance in 1991.

Old Richmond Road is a scenic highway driving route and a local historic area.

"There's no way what they do is compatible with this area, and they should not be given permission to expand," she said.

Vulcan attorney Richard Hopgood said the company works hard to follow local, state and federal regulations.

"We are highly regulated and we operate in compliance," Hopgood said.

Vulcan is asking for a permit to operate at a depth of about 300 feet on a portion of the 435-acre Hidden Haven farm on Turner Station Road.

Since 2000, the farm has been owned by Anderson Homes for Rent or developer Dennis Anderson. The company has mined and quarried limestone on Elk Lick Creek Road since 1958.

Vulcan wants to extend mining under part of Hidden Haven because further mining on its own property would mean going deeper, which would be more expensive, according to the Board of Adjustment staff report.

The report recommends approval of the conditional use permit, but only for about 50 acres of the 135 requested by Vulcan.

The report also recommends limiting Vulcan's blasting to no more than once a day and banning it from mining under Elk Lick Creek. Under the recommendation, the surface could not be disturbed except to construct air ventilators needed to comply with regulatory requirements.

Hopgood said blasting is done once a day at about 5 p.m.

"We blast enough for the next day's production," he said.

Martin said shock waves can be felt up to two miles away.

"Everybody out here has got cracks in their walls, in their foundations," she said. "Vulcan's attitude is, 'You can't prove we did it.' "

Rock that is crushed and stockpiled along Elk Lick Creek Road creates air pollution for those who live nearby, said Mary Diane Hanna, president of Old Richmond Road Neighborhood Association.

"Dust turns the trees snowy white in that area," Hanna said.

Hopgood said the company uses an "extensive amount of water" to spray its stockpiles, conveyors and roads to reduce dust. "We don't have any violations," he said.

Lexington's mining ordinance requires all trucks leaving the quarry to be covered, but not all are adequately covered, and some not at all, Hanna said.

Even covered, "trucks barrel down the road," she said. "Gravel flies off and has dented cars, cracked windshields. We've had gravel spills from overturned gravel trucks."

Hopgood said Vulcan refuses to load trucks that don't have adequate tarps.

"We enforce the policy," he said. "We log complaints. If somebody complains, we respond to it."

Hanna also said excess water trapped in the mine is pumped out, flowing onto the ground and into Elk Lick Creek, which flows into the Kentucky River.

Hopgood disputed Hanna's claim and said the company does not pollute the water.

Vulcan, based in Birmingham, Ala., is a publicly traded company with mines across the country that produce aggregates, primarily crushed stone, sand and gravel used in nearly all forms of construction.

The company also operates Central Rock on Manchester Street and mines under McConnell Springs.

This is not the first attempt by Vulcan to obtain permission to extend its underground mining onto the property on Turner Station Road. It tried unsuccessfully to get a similar permit in 1989 and 1998.