Damaged goods

It wasn’t long after Chris Spencer moved into his newly built home overlooking Old Hickory Lake before he heard a distinct rumble and felt his house shake as if hit by a mild earthquake.

Two weeks later he felt it again.

When he asked some of his neighbors in the Riverchase subdivision if their doors and walls rattled too, they said that they had complained for years about blasting at the Gallatin quarry about a mile away owned by Rogers Group.

“A lot of my neighbors sweared they had damage from the blasting, but said they had gotten nowhere,” said Spencer who called the company in May 2016 to report damage to his home.

Spencer pointed to cracks in his deck along the pool, and several cracks in his new home, blaming them on the effects of blasting at the quarry.

“The builder repaired bricks in six areas before we closed,” he said. “It can’t be a coincidence that I’ve had so much damage on a new house.”

Spencer met with Rogers Group officials several times, asking the company to install a seismograph on his property. They agreed.

After receiving four months’ worth of data that showed blasting levels 20 times below the legal limit, Spencer says he asked for more data, but has yet to receive it.

“We are always way under the state requirements,” said Rogers Group Area Vice President Bryan Ledford. While the state requirements are one to two inches per second peak particle velocity, Rogers Group targets .5 inches, he said, “just to make sure we stay below the legal limits.”

Blasting is regulated by state law, superseding any city or county regulations.

In fact, according to the Tennessee Blasting Standards Act of 1975, state law supersedes any “future county, town, city or municipal ordinances or regulations respecting the subjects covered by this chapter.”

Still, the Hendersonville Fire Department received around 50 complaints regarding blasting at the quarry  last year, according to Hendersonville Fire Marshal Shane Nolen.

“It’s something that’s increasing as the city grows,” said Nolen who refers those calls to the state fire marshal’s office. “We’re growing around the quarry which is an issue. The quarry didn’t come to us. We’re moving toward the quarry.”

Quarry dates back 60 years

The quarry itself dates back to the 1940’s. Rogers Group, the seventh largest crushed stone producer in the U.S., according to its website, bought the quarry in 1963. Although it sits on property in Gallatin, several Hendersonville residents – many in newer developments along Saundersville Road - say they feel the blasts and wonder what impact it has on their homes.

Ward 5 Alderman Darrell Woodcock said he started to feel the blasts at his home in Saundersville Station in 2016.

He also started getting requests from constituents like Spencer to do something about it.

Woodcock first held a community meeting in the fall on 2016 attended by residents from different neighborhoods along Saundersville Road.

Since then, a committee formed, three town hall meetings have been held, and a Facebook group was created for area residents to share concerns. Woodcock says he’s also had several conversations with state legislators, but little has been done to satisfy those in the area.

At a community meeting at City Hall on Feb. 15, a representative with Vibra-Tech, the third party hired by Rogers Group to monitor its data, gave those in attendance, roughly 60 or so residents, a brief history of the company as well as an explanation about how the company blasts and how the blasts are measured.

 While the data presented shows the quarry is blasting well below state limits, data obtained through an open records request by the Hendersonville Standard shows the company coming closer to the state limits than previously reported.

Ledford said that data is misleading because it was recorded at the blast site, not near homes.

But both Woodcock and Mayor Jamie Clary say they want the city to have their own data.

Clary said the city is looking into hiring its own third party to set up seismographs around town and monitor them.

“We just want data and we want to find the most cost-effective way to generate the data,” he said. “What is most apparent is that it’s hard for our residents to get data on blasting.

“I don’t know if [Rogers Group’s data] is accurate or not. That’s part of the problem. That’s the reason we should have our own.”

‘Not just settling’

Saundersville Station resident April Barker says her home has shaken so much from blasts at the quarry that the silver trays she decorates with have flown off the walls and crown molding has popped off of the ceiling and base boards.

“It’s not just settling,” she says.

Barker says she attended the Feb. 15 meeting and felt frustrated. She’s organized another meeting at City Hall on March 15 in order to get a game plan for neighbors to address a state blasting committee on April 19.

“The quarry does a lot of good for our community, and I’d like to see some solutions that find a happy medium for everybody,” said Barker.

Barker added she’d like to see new blasting standards set based on current home construction materials in Tennessee – not based on an old study that was done in another state.  

She’d also like to see more data as well as discussions about possibly rezoning areas near the quarry so that future developments won’t have to deal with this same issue.

“Contractors are still developing. Homes are still being built,” she said. “I feel like everyone is turning a blind eye to this. I’m not expecting huge changes, but I would like to see some changes.”

Ledford, who is an engineer, admitted there has been an increase lately in the amount of complaints the quarry has received, but didn’t give specific numbers.

“Houses everywhere settle and crack,” he added. “When they feel a blast they think it must be affecting their home, but that’s not a direct correlation.”

Spencer disagrees.

“I’m not trying to cause them trouble,” Spencer added. “I’m trying to have them understand that we feel like they are disrupting our homes for private purposes and we want to find a solution.”

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