City Cracks Down On Quarry After NC5 Investigation
By Ben Hall
NASHVILLE, Tenn. - Rock quarries are heavily regulated and often controversial. An exclusive NewsChannel 5 investigation discovered how quarries can operate without regulators even knowing about them.
La Vergne's Mayor Ronnie Erwin was surprised to learn of a 30-acre rock quarry operating in his city.
"I was shocked how much action was going on out there," said Erwin. "When it was called and brought to our attention by NewsChannel 5, then we had to go out there and look and see."
Video from Sky 5 HD showed the scale of the operation. Heavy equipment cut rock into gravel, and there's an area where crews have blasted at least 50 feet into the ground.
The city issued Duggin Construction a grading permit in 2002, but city officials said the company did not have permission to operate a full fledged rock quarry.
NewsChannel 5 Investigates followed as Duggin Construction trucks left the site filled with rock and delivered it to a construction site in a neighboring county.
NewsChannel 5 showed the video to environmental geologist Mark Quarels.
"It's a quarry," said Quarels. "It's a commercial industrial operation. It's a quarry."
He said quarries are heavily regulated because they can scar the land and damage the environment.
"The permits are there for a reason," said Quarels. "The state and EPA have determined the permits are needed to protect the receiving streams."
It's primarily up to local governments to regulate rock quarries. Many cities like La Vergne do not have the manpower to do routine inspections.
"I would have liked to have known about it a year or two earlier, but as soon as we found out, as soon as it was brought to our attention. we were acting on it," said Erwin.
Duggin Construction declined to take NewsChannel 5 on property or talk with us on camera. The company's owner said he did not know they were doing anything wrong and denied it was a quarry. He said they're just leveling the property for development.
City officials believe the site was out of compliance for more than a year.
"How could that be? It's like it was a couple of weeks," we asked Erwin.
"It shouldn't have happened. I'm not making excuses. I'll take the blame for that," responded Erwin.
He denied that the city looked the other way because the land is owned by a prominent local family. Roy Waldron is related to a former mayor.
"There's no favoritism at all," said Erwin. "I can see where it would look that way. We do have a councilman that's a Waldron, but none whatsoever."
The city is rewriting its codes and giving the company time to get in compliance. If it can't, the city will shut down the operation.
Environmentalists said no quarry should operate without proper oversight, but too often they do.
"I'm glad it was brought to our attention" said Mayor Erwin. "I'm glad to start getting it taken care of."
Metro shut down an operation for selling crushed rock last year after neighbors complained. Environmental groups said citizen complaints are critical to protecting the environment.
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