Going for the Green
Before Summit bought the quarry, it was approached by other companies. “Most of them were all about the money,” Shackelford says. “They thought we were crazy for doing things the way we were doing them. But when Summit approached us, it was all about what we were doing. Most good companies are now. It will soon be regulated in, if it isn’t done voluntarily.”
Dry dust suppression
The quarry’s location in the central hill country of Texas brings with it the problem of a water supply. The Edwards Aquifer is located underneath the quarry and much of that part of the country, but the aquifer supplies drinking water for most of central Texas. In a typical year, a limited amount of rain falls in the area, and during drought years, especially years like 2011 when Texas experienced one of the worst droughts on record, that water supply must be protected. Knowing this, Shackelford searched for a dry dust-suppression system for the processing plant that would keep dust at a minimum while using little water.
“We started looking for dry technology in 2008,” Shackelford explains, “and it was implemented in 2010. That was a big point with the neighbors. The rock we’re producing dry is cleaner than the rock we’ve purchased washed from a third-party quarry in San Antonio. It was a challenge to get the technology in place and still meet the permit, but we did it and actually exceeded the permit.”
The Transpar dry dust suppression system used at the quarry was developed by R. Brunone, Inc. of France. It consists of a system of sealed conveyors and dust collectors. The sealed dust collectors are mounted on top of the conveyors and create negative pressure in the system. The dust is then captured and filtered.
The system required a significant investment by KBDJ at the time, but Shackelford believes “dry dust suppression helps protect two natural resources of great value to our neighbors — fresh water and clean air. It’s a better way to do it. It’s better for the environment. It’s better for the drinking water supply. There’s nothing negative about it.”
The primary crusher is enclosed in a building, which helps to eliminate noise and dust, and improves the cleanliness of the quarry. All the conveyors in the processing plant are covered, which also helps eliminate dust and noise. The water used in the quarry is mainly for dust control on roadways.
Many unconventional ideas have been implemented at the quarry — ideas that have made a huge impact on community relations. But the community isn’t the only beneficiary, the quarry and aggregates industry, as a whole, are reaping the rewards as well.
When the quarry was designed, a large buffer zone was worked into the set up. “Reserves are important, we want as many as we can get,” Shackelford says, “but out of respect for the neighbors, you don’t have to go right up to the property line. At one of our committee meetings, we decided that we’d be no closer than 1,000 feet to any property line. So we swapped 18 acres on the South end for 18 acres on the North end and moved further back on the property. As it turned out, the rock quality in the 18 acres on the North end is better and deeper. So it was a win-win for both parties.”
There’s a school right down the road from the quarry that gets a lot of traffic before school starts in the morning and after school lets out in the afternoon. During those times, the quarry locks its gates for about 30 minutes to keep trucks from driving through the school zone. It’s a small thing, but the community appreciates it.
After receiving several complaints from neighbors about backup alarms one Christmas, quarry personnel went on a mission to find backup alarms that wouldn’t beep, but would still meet Mine Safety and Health Administration standards. “We purchased a few at $3,000 apiece, and the complaints stopped,” Shackelford says, “but we knew we couldn’t afford to put them on all of our equipment, so we kept researching. We finally found some for $300 apiece that quacked like a duck instead of beeping. If you’re behind the vehicle, you hear it, but if you walk around to the front of the vehicle, you can’t hear it. The noise dissipates quickly. That was a huge thing for the community.”
Loaders at the quarry were replaced with low-emissions vehicles through the Texas Emissions Reduction Plan. The quarry applied for a grant from the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ) to replace all of its older units with new low-emissions equipment to further eliminate off-site impact.
“We keep blasting to a minimum, if we can,” Shackelford says. “We cancel blasts due to the weather or temperature, and when we do blast, we seismograph the whole area to make sure the community isn’t affected. If a neighbor has a concern, we’ll seismograph in his front yard. Then we show him the results. We call people ahead of blasting and put our blasting schedule on the internet, so it’s transparent.”
There’s no noise ordinance in the area, so the quarry adopted Austin’s ordinance and monitors for noise. The processing plant sits in the bottom of the pit, so the steep walls help reduce noise levels.
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