Committee meets with concrete plant reps

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By Jenny Hartley

Representatives of four local concrete companies faced questions from Lancaster County Council members last week.

A council committee – Rudy Carter, Larry Honeycutt and Bryan Vaughn – has been looking into noise complaints from residents of Brookchase and Lakeview Landing residents in Indian Land. Vaughn did not attend the June 18 meeting.

Some residents have complained of excessive noise and dust being generated by the concrete companies in 521 Perimeter Commerce Park, which backs up to several homes in Brookchase and is adjacent to some in Lakeview Landing.

Residents say Blue Dot Readi-Mix in particular has been causing problems for the neighborhoods.

Officials from Blue Dot, CEMEX, Concrete Supply Co. and MacLeod concrete companies came to the meeting. Two S.C. Department of Health and Environmental Control officials charged with studying the situation also attended.

Carter asked each company to talk about what measures they've taken to reduce the noise and dust from their plants.

"I don't think it's a surprise to anyone why we're here," Carter said. "We know that you make noise. We're looking for middle ground."

Plant officials explain

Paul Cochrane of Blue Dot said he thinks people assume that his company hasn't taken steps to be a better neighbor, but that's not true.

He said Blue Dot has changed trucking companies, uses a flashing light instead of sound for back-up alarms on trucks and has been working with a sound engineer and DHEC to address complaints. The company uses no unnecessary lights or alarms when working at night, and has been dampening its lot to reduce dust.

The company has a speed limit on site, and has begun paving the lot. It is working on a 55-foot tall enclosure for plant operations that will be specially insulated to muffle noise. Cochrane said that requires approval from DHEC.

DHEC's Ron Garrett said "because of the urgency of the situation," he's urged DHEC officials to have approval on that by the end of this week. After that, construction can begin on the enclosure, Cochrane said.

"I'm glad to hear all that," Carter said.

Michael Houser of MacLeod said his plant was built to reduce noise from the start. The parking lot is paved, a speed limit is enforced and there are speed bumps to slow trucks. Plant officials continually look for ways to improve.

"Our plant was built enclosed and our hoppers are underground," Houser said. "We're as eager as everyone to stop this."

Bill Newsome of CEMEX said he was aware of the situation with the neighborhoods before his plant was built. The company spent much more than was originally planned to reduce sound from its operations.

"We won't have a completely noise-free environment in our industry," Newsome said. "We think we've done everything humanly possible to be the best neighbor possible."

Henry Batten of Concrete Supply Co. said he met with a Lakeview Landing resident and built the kind of plant she wanted. His plant is enclosed; there are earthen berms to reduce noise and trees were left as a barrier between Brookchase residents and the plant.

Garrett said at a previous meeting that Concrete Supply's efforts "set the bar" for other concrete companies in the park.

Responding to complaints

Cochrane said Blue Dot often gets accused of operating at 3 or 4 a.m., but their logs show that no one was at the plant when the complaints occurred. It's possible that a building supply company nearby could be making the noise, Cochrane said.

"I don't think these people are getting up at 3 a.m. and making something up," said Councilman Fred Thomas, who is not a committee member, but attended the meeting. "That's not going to solve anything."

"These people e-mailing us – I believe they're hearing something," Honeycutt said. He referred to the e-mails several Brookchase residents send to council members, letting them know when the plants are operating during early morning hours.

Several officials at the meeting said there will be late night or early morning work at the plants because concrete requires cooler temperatures to set properly.

"Our hours are determined by who we're pouring for," Cochrane said.

Traffic projects need concrete at night, so roads are open by morning rush hour, Newsome said. State buildings and power plants have very strict standards on this, Houser added, with power plants often requiring the use of liquid nitrogen to cool concrete.

Newsome and other officials welcomed County Council members to tour their plants. Newsome said he'd like to meet with residents at the plant as well.

David Turnball of MacLeod asked committee members for copies of e-mails from residents so company officials can respond to complaints.

Cochrane said he;s found it difficult to talk to residents about the issue. Blue Dot has had its trucks vandalized, and residents often antagonize concrete truck drivers by stopping them along the road or making rude hand gestures.

"We've removed ourselves from communications with neighbors," Cochrane said.

Honeycutt said he felt that once Blue Dot finishes work at the plant to reduce sound, many of the residents' problems will be solved.

"I feel like these are responsible business people who want to make this work," Carter said.

Contact senior reporter Jenny Hartley at jhartley@thelancasternews.com or (803) 283-1151