More than one hundred people packed the Andrews High School auditorium July 26 to voice opposition to a proposed limestone quarry off Seaboard Road in Williamsburg County.
The state Department of Health and Environmental Control held the public hearing so members of the community could give input before a final decision is made on the permitting process.
Presentations were made by DHEC officials Joe Koon and Mareesa Singleton, who gave summaries of the draft mining permit and the draft air permit, respectively.
Andrews Mayor Frank McClary explained how the quarry would affect his town.
“You (DHEC) have the same responsibly when it comes down to this mine. It all matters and it’s about the people. That’s why this agency, for the governor, exists. It is to take care of the people."
The mood of the hearing was tense as people shared collective concerns about the mine, which would be located on 1,000 acres between Tad and Wheeler roads.
A main issue brought up during the hearing was what would happen if people lost their water wells due to mining. Another was about the potential for sinkholes. There is a cemetery near the proposed site for the quarry, and citizens were concerned about "graves popping out of the ground."
Erin Page, with the Coastal Conservation League, spoke about the mine's impact on the Murray Swamp, which runs through the quarry property and then into the Black River.
“We have concerns about the mining contaminants affecting water quality, marine life, and trees along the way,” she said.
Many speakers worried about the well-being of older people who live in the Earle community as well as the issue of health impacts and sound pollution. The mine's potential impact on wildlife was brought up, too.
Mayor McClary said, “I spent 29 years in the military. I served two tours in combat. There’s not one explosion that has a silencer on it." He was referencing blasting that would occur at the mine.
Representatives from the company behind the proposed quarry, RDA LLC, spoke as well, assuring citizens that they want to be a part of the community.
Craig Kennedy, a geologist and lead consultant for RDA, said the company will have immediate and sustaining economic impacts in Williamsburg County.
“RDA is committed to improving the economic environment of Williamsburg County and protecting its natural environment," he said. 'We hope residents will regard the location of the quarry within Williamsburg County as an advantage and benefit.”
After the hearing, DHEC officials said public comments will be accepted through Aug. 10.
After the public comment period closes, DHEC will decide whether to approve, disapprove or modify the permits. The decision is based on consideration of regulations, the permit application and public comments.
Before the hearing began, A rally opposing the quarry was held outside the high school. People held signs saying things such as "Stop the quarry," and many wore red in a show of solidarity.
Billy Bruorton, whose family has lived in the Earle community for generations, said the mine would affect everyone who lives near it.
“This is going to be taking everyone’s land that they worked hard for and turning into a quarry. We don’t want it in the community. There’s going to be a lot of traffic on the roads, pollution, a lot of water going into the swamps and rivers. This is nothing the community wants, and we have been fighting it for a little over a year," he said.