TARRANT, Ala. (WIAT) — If you’ve ever experienced an earthquake, it’s probably something you’ll never forget. For neighbors in Tarrant who live within a half-mile of Vulcan Materials, that’s how they described what it feels like when the company blasts every week.
Vulcan Materials is the largest producer of construction aggregate in the country. The company uses explosives at its quarry to make gravel, sending off shots about once or twice a week, sometimes more.
“If you’re in the homes it feels like dynamite has went off at your house,” Tarrant resident Emma Walters said.
The foundation of Walters’ home is crumbling. She told CBS 42 she fears that it will cave in one day. Cracks along the front of her house send water flooding into her basement when it rains, and the inside is marked with splits along the walls.
“I know they have a right to make a living, but they don’t have a right to destroy my home. My home is all I’ve got,” she said. “My husband and I worked for years for that.”
Walters believes the vibrations from blasting at Vulcan Materials is to blame for the damages at her home.
After listening to residents concerns, CBS 42 toured Vulcan Materials and spoke with Jimmy Fleming, vice president of permitting and external relations, about neighbors’ complaints.
“I’ve been doing this a long time. I very rarely see a crack in someone’s home that I don’t see in my own,” Fleming said. “Our experience usually has been there’s a different explanation other than blasting.”
Fleming said the blasting records from a third party company show seismograph readings of vibrations from the past five years are all under 0.5 inches per second at the facility, falling well below Alabama’s state blasting threshold of 2 inches per second. He added that science shows anything below that threshold should not cause any damage to homes.
Despite falling within the proper legal limits, resident are now giving their complaints to city officials. During the Tarrant City Council meeting last week, several residents shared stories of startling sounds, trembling homes and damages they believe were all the result of blasting.
“You all come to our neighborhoods, and you tear up and you tear up and you tear up, under the auspices of the guise of the government,” said Tarrant Mayor Pro Tem Tracie Threadford. She explained blasting is even impacting her own home.
Randy Jones, area operations manager at Vulcan Materials, was at the meeting, where he told neighbors while the blasts may cause loud sounds and homes to rattle, the vibrations are monitored and are not strong enough to cause damage.
Residents did not react well to that statement. Many were visibly upset, and soon after shared their stories. One woman even handed out photos showing her ceiling caved in, claiming it was from a blast. She said she now wants to sue.
Fleming said he wants the company to have better communication with residents, and encourages people with complaints to call. That number is (205) -849-7451.
Jones said if you believe a recent blast has caused damage to your home, you should call immediately after it happens.
Since that public hearing, Fleming reported several residents called with complaints, and Vulcan Materials had seismographs installed near their homes to monitor vibrations for future blasts. He added that has been their protocol all along, but there was an influx in phone calls since the hearing. Several seismographs are already installed throughout nearby neighborhoods and monitored for every blast.
Blasting in the state is monitored by the Alabama State Fire Marshal. Calls and emails sent to the Fire Marshal were not returned at deadline.
To learn more about blasting in Alabama, you can read the Alabama Explosives Safety Act of 1993 here.