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Blasting, Damage, Questions.

On November 28, there was a meeting held at the Vulcan Materials plant on River Road. Here are the minutes from that meeting:

Attendees included Paul Garland, Sheryl Garland, Councilman Thom Druffel, and representatives from Vulcan Materials, including the VP of Permitting and External Relations, the Plant Manager, the Plant Supervisor, and the Manager of Community and Government Relations. The topic was the increasing intensity of blasts and the possibility of damage to residents due to blasting.


Vulcan Materials' position is that the regulation of 2.0 inches/second is a requirement that was derived based on the strength of housing materials - in particular, plaster wallboard. They pointed out that this is a national standard, and that they are consistently well below that reading. They did concede that the vibrations do not dissipate in the concentric method that water ripples in a pond, and that the limestone/shale rocks beneath us, as well as the amount of soil, and other factors determine how the blast is felt by residents. They reiterated that they believe their blasting cannot damage homes, and that foundation and wall cracks could be natural.


They also relayed that they felt there was no basis in the idea that there would be a cumulative effect to foundations over 40 years of monthly blasting. The VP proceeded to rebut some information that we received from various sources, and we indicated that a release of the seismic readings would help clear up the conflict.

The plant shoots (blasts) in 3 benches, which are identified by the strata of rock in the Ordovician System. Specifically, they extract rock from the Bigby Cannon, Hermitage and Carters formations (benches). The biggest, Bigby Cannon, produces the best limestone. (see diagram below)


Our position that we conveyed is that their explanations aside, there are residents in West Meade and Hillwood, some for over 40 years, that have experienced more intense blasts this year than they have felt in any preceding year, and that many residents feel like the blasts are having an impact on their foundations and walls. We also pointed out that we have had discussions with geologists with experience on the impact of continued explosives on concrete, rock, and natural materials, and they felt that there would most likely be a cumulative negative impact on building materials caused by monthly blasting over a period of greater than 40 years.


We also posited that the maximum vibration requirement might not be appropriate for a neighborhood that contains 60+ year old houses and might need to be readdressed. The origin of the 1975 regulation is still vague, but the Vulcan VP indicated that the requirement is a federal one. (The Tennessee Fire Marshal indicated that it came from the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives. However, we talked to a special agent from ATF who said it did not come from them.)


We mentioned that we are considering obtaining a simulation of the blasting, to ascertain whether the years of blasting have impacted our homes. They said such a simulation has been done, and that it would be very expensive. We were referred to the U.S. Bureau of Mines for more information. We told them we would welcome their assistance with securing the right resources that would be able to perform a geological simulation and determine the associated costs of testing. Since their blasting is well within the Tennessee State regulations, they should have no reservations in helping. We also suggested that they could set up monitoring stations throughout the neighborhoods.

Thom said it best when he told them that "Perception becomes reality, and Vulcan needs to come up with some way to make the intense blasting stop" or our residents will not stop complaining and may begin to pursue legal methods of recourse.


My general feeling is that Vulcan Materials feels that they are doing what they can, and keeping within the state requirements and that they are convinced that their blasting is not causing damage to residents' homes. Their expertise is appreciated, but since they are Vulcan employees, their opinions are naturally biased. Thus, I feel it is on us, as good stewards of the neighborhoods, to do as Ronald Regan would do - "trust, but verify" - and continue to research any possibility that neighborhood homes have sustained damage from years of blasting.


— Minutes of the meeting by Paul Garland

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