The Garden Ridge Quarry Commission has been in existence for over 16 years as of November 2017. It was formed with the approval of the City Council and Mayor by concerned citizens.
The Quarry Commission has little legal recourse to stop quarry activity, though we continually support efforts at the state and county level that would change this. We have always made it a critical issue to mitigate and moderate the impact of the quarry on the citizens of Garden Ridge. Without our (your) concerns being voiced, the quarry would likely blast much closer to the federal guideline maximums.
The Quarry Commission, working with the City Council, the Mayor, Hanson Aggregates, and the blasting contractors, has been successful in the following areas:
- Upon being formed, the Quarry Commission created an open channel for dialogue with the quarry. The Commission instituted a blast monitoring system in an attempt to better understand and evaluate quarry blasts. Numerous educational meetings have been held to better educate the members of the Commission. This has allowed better and more pointed communication with Hanson and blasting contractors for the benefit of city residents.
- The Quarry Commission negotiated with Hanson to purchase and use a blast face profiler to reduce air blasts during quarry detonations. Generally, it is the air blasts, not the noise or the ground vibrations, that are the most perceptible.
- The Quarry Commission encouraged Hanson to change from the use of standard blasting caps to the use of electronic blasting caps. This action was taken in order to lessen the perceived impact of blasts by better controlling the split mille-second timing between the typical 36 individual detonations that make up a “blast” over the course of one second. These electronic caps, which cost over $3,000 more per blast, have afforded more consistency in controlling blast effects.
- With the encouragement of the Quarry Commission, Hanson constructed and continues to enlarge an earthen berm between the western most limits of the quarry face and the Trophy Oaks Subdivision. This berm provides visual screening, helps deflect quarry noise, and acts as a physical barrier.
- The Quarry Commission requested that Hanson provide the names of specific employees and contractors to work with the Commission, including the quarry site manager and the lead blasting contractor. This allows for better communications which results in faster response to citizen concerns.
- At the recommendation of the Quarry Commission, Hanson purchased one, and ultimately five, calibrated seismic monitors and has paid the expenses of blast measurements at specific locations directed by the Commission based on citizen requests and required data.
- After a lengthy process, Vibra-Tech, the firm that was instrumental in developing Federal Mining Guidelines, was selected by the Commission and approved by the City Council to monitor quarry blasting. This firm collects and analyzes blast data then sends monthly reports on each blast to the City. This data is used by the Commission and Hanson to reduce the impact of the quarry operations. Under the provisions of Garden Ridge City Ordinance 34, Hanson assumed the cost of an independent blast vibration consultant firm which monitors blasting operations. Upon a request from the Commission, Hanson has expanded the initial agreement from monitoring at one to five plus locations.
- With the encouragement of the Quarry Commission, Hanson changed the face of the quarry in order to better direct ground vibrations away from the majority of the City. This expensive measure caused the quarry to cut a hundred foot deep by approximately 950-foot wide notch out of solid limestone. As this notch was extended to the west, the intensity of blasts was more perceptible. Due to the shift of the quarry face, Hanson is incurring daily increases in their production costs as the operation is less efficient and time / distance to the crusher is increased. In October 2005, Hanson began to bench their blasts in the notch thus reducing the required amount of explosives as they approach Trophy Oaks. Benching refers to blasting 50 feet deep instead of the normal 95 feet. A second blast for the lower 45 feet is required, but should have much reduced effects.
- The Quarry Commission has conducted two public meetings which included Hanson, Vibra-Tech, the Quarry Commission, and an independent soils engineer to better educate the citizens about blasting and soils related concerns.
- With the aggressive encouragement from the Quarry Commission, Hanson retained a blasting contractor whose firm is working with the Commission to lessen blast effects rather than just being focused on production goals.
- The Quarry Commission has educated and continues to educate the citizens on quarry issues and operations through Grapevine articles, the City’s website, quarry site tours, and the Commission’s semi-monthly meetings. We encourage citizens to attend our semi-monthly meeting. Don’t wait for a blast to impact you before you become educated on the quarry operations, your Quarry Commission’s ability to support you and what state and federal rules apply.
- The Quarry Commission encourages citizens to email the City and Commission about Quarry concerns. Citizens are encouraged to report any excessive or unusual blasts so such blasts can be properly investigated (Citizen Quarry Blast Impact Report).
- The Quarry Commission has routinely encouraged Hanson to do everything possible to keep blast impact data at 50% of the Z curve and to be highly sensitive to air over pressure.
- The Quarry Commission has repeatedly talked to Hanson about blast timing to mitigate impact. This technical issue is one of the most important points that must be understood and pursued to lessen impact on homes.
- The Quarry Commission has negotiated a minimum distance of 1,000 feet from the nearest citizen residence. While a good case can be made that closer blasting requires much more stringent blast controls and this mandate makes specific distances less important we, nonetheless, feel our citizens will be more comfortable with specific setbacks (unlike Shaveno Park where mining occurs within 250 feet of some homes).
- The Quarry Commission has worked routinely with Hanson on noise and light discipline. Hanson has been immediately responsive on night time lighting issues and OSHA audible backup alarms. They redirected lights and purchased OSHA approved strobe devices for night time operations.
- The Quarry Commission has always recommended that Hanson and blasting contractors be sensitive to weather events that might increase blast impact. Hanson has, on numerous occasions, held or even postponed shots that might be negatively impacted by weather.
- The Quarry Commission has created a citizen blast report form and has a personal follow-up plan to contact citizens about their blast reports. We discuss each citizen report and assign a Commission member to personally contact the citizen involved. We discuss each blast report at our open meetings.
- The Quarry Commission is serious about our blast follow up process and constantly reinforces to Hanson the need to be “low impact.”
- The Quarry Commission has routinely encouraged Hanson to be responsive to citizen blast damage complaints.
- The Quarry Commission has written a letter to the state legislature on the need for hard rock mining legislation. This letter was presented to the legislature by Mayor Fiebelman. We encourage all citizens to be in contact with their legislators on this issue. There are no regulations in Texas that control hard rock mining. This isn’t likely to change without your input.
- The Quarry Commission promoted and supported a meeting and tour at the Quarry with Senator Wentworth. This was another effort to bring to state legislators the importance of overseeing hard rock mining in Texas.
- The Quarry Commission promoted and supported a visit to Austin to meet with state officials on quarry operations and impact zones. We hope to continue this effort.
- The Quarry Commission has been very aggressive in our reaction to blasts that go beyond the federal guidelines. Both the Quarry Commission and the quarry believe once is too often. We will continue to press for zero errors.
- The Quarry Commission has encouraged the employment of outside experts to report to the Quarry Commission on oversight, monitoring and blast impact mitigation techniques. Ordinance 34 will substantially raise the annual fees paid by the quarry. Some of this money will be used to pay qualified outside experts to assist the City in it’s quarry oversight responsibilities.
- The Quarry Commission believes that blast face direction is important and has regularly encouraged the quarry to turn the face of the active mining site away from the homeowners in Garden Ridge whenever possible to help reduce blast impact, especially air over pressure.
- The Quarry Commission has been successful in encouraging Hanson to continue its dialogue with the City.
- The Quarry Commission has successfully encouraged Hanson to use new techniques and technologies without consideration to cost where possible.