Something is very wrong in the Land of Cotton



Dr. Robert Bullard
Environmental Justice Movement Founder

Sunday, May 30, 2010

Vincent's Oil Spill; A Disaster in the Making for Alabama & the Eastern Seaboard

***This is heavy sledding but it's important, rather than being a blogger's rant we have included all the relevant text and documentation. Read what the players say in their own words; and judge the contradictions for yourself. ***

Could what is happening in the Gulf of Mexico with the BP oil spill, emerge as a real scenario in central Alabama, with the massive proposed limestone quarry and its close proximity to the two major Colonial & Plantation Pipelines in Shelby County, Alabama?

We will present the facts and possibilities that indeed it could. 

A Vincent citizen asked us for permission to use our article as the basis for a letter that she sent out to 36 entities including Kinder Morgan, Plantation Pipeline, US EPA, various press outlets,the quarry PR men, attorneys and local and state officials involved in the quarry project.

Not a single one of them responded to the issues raised other than the quarry geologist who referred to the contents as "bizarre, nonsensical and slanderous," among other things and he chose to respond to the Mayor of Vincent and that town's council exclusively.

What this geologist did not know is that the letter was reviewed by credible environmental engineers before it went out for accuracy and relevancy of the concerns voiced.

Her letter will follow further down in this posting after some introductory information.

White Rock Quarries (WRQ) is proposing a limestone quarry for the Vincent, Alabama area that encompasses 974 acres, excavating to at least 400 ft submitted in their proposal to the Vincent Planning Commission (VPC) March 2010. The Coosa River is in close proximity, approximately 6500 ft. from the center of the quarry property.

The aged Colonial Pipeline (built in 1963) runs on the immediate north edge of a "Water Well Inventory (2 mile radius) and Pre-Blast (1.5 mile radius) Survey Areas" map included with a zoning ordinance revision change to the VPC in April of 2010 by WRQ.

Both of these landmarks are important because it will illustrate how a spill from the pipelines being ruptured from blasting, sinkholes and/or land subsidence will have a greater effect than just the immediate area of the quarry. It could affect the eastern US supplies. This pipeline also runs under the Coosa River.

If a rupture occurs and infiltrates the ground water, which it inevitably will, the Coosa will also be at risk of being affected, which could then carry the oil, jet fuel, diesel fuel, etc., into other waterways that are part of the Coosa's drainage such as the Tallapoosa and Alabama Rivers described below:

Army Corp of Engineers descriptor on the Coosa River:
"The Coosa River mainstem is formed when the Oostanaula and Etowah Rivers converge near Rome, Georgia. The drainage area of the upper Coosa tributaries above Rome covers approximately 4,000 square miles. (Corps) The Coosa then flows 286 miles from Rome to north of Montgomery where it joins the Tallapoosa to form the Alabama River." 

PDF link to Alabama River systems (note that the Alabama River drains to Gulf of Mexico):RiverMap

If the pipeline rupture occurs near the Coosa River Loop, that is well within the 1.5 mile blast zone, or under the river then the spill goes directly into the river (read SC spill further down). The river currents can quickly carry it out of the area and downstream to the state's other major waterways and downstream to the Gulf of Mexico.

The Colonial Pipelines are highly pressurized and carry different products at varying amounts from Texas, through Alabama and the eastern seaboard to New York:
Colonial Pipeline, headquartered in Alpharetta, Georgia, delivers a daily average of 100 million gallons (398 million liters) of gasoline, home heating oil, aviation fuel and other refined petroleum products to communities and businesses throughout the South and Eastern United States

Colonial consists of more than 5,500 mi (8,900 km) of pipeline, originating at Houston, Texas, and terminating at New York harbor. The pipeline travels through the coastal states of Texas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama, Georgia, South Carolina, North Carolina, Virginia, Maryland, Pennsylvania, and New Jersey. Branches from the main pipeline also reach Tennessee.

The main lines are 40 inches (1,000 mm) and 36 inches (910 mm) in diameter, with one primarily devoted to gasoline and the other carrying distillate products such as jet fuel, diesel fuel, and home heating oil. The pipeline connects directly to major airports along the system. Fifteen associated tank farms store more than 1.2 billion gallons of fuel and provide a 45 day supply for local communities.
Products move through the mainlines at a rate of about three to five miles per hour. It generally takes from 14 to 24 days for a batch to get from Houston, Texas to the New York harbor, with 18.5 days the average time.[1]

The above graphic and information shows what goes through these lines and how much on a regular basis. A spill of any of these materials would have disastrous effects on the environment and surrounding communities in Alabama, and economic impacts in all the other states they serve. Colonial says the fuel tank farms have enough for a 45 day supply to the local communities. Does that include the major airports? Probably not since they are tied directly to the pipeline.

Two companies supply the eastern seaboard; Colonial and Plantation. These are their systems maps:

Reuters NY article about Colonial & Plantation, how much they supply the eastern seaboard and the effects of Hurricane Katrina on their supplies:

From the above article:
The shutdown of the Colonial Pipeline for two days this week was a major factor pushing gasoline prices sharply higher. In turn, recovery of the line on Friday brought down wholesale gasoline prices in the Gulf Coast cash oil products market, oil traders and brokers said.

Two days shutdown and it affected gasoline prices.
That certainly makes a rupture in our area go nationwide in its consequences.

The letter in its entirety:

To those concerned:

I would like to present some concerns about the proximity of the proposed quarry in Vincent, Alabama near the Colonial and Plantation pipelines, the Coosa River and the strong possibility of subsidence and sinkholes resulting from massive groundwater withdrawals from the proposed quarry.

What has been addressed so far about this issue is contradictory to the facts. I request that the issues I outline in this letter receive serious consideration and much deeper examination, before any further action is taken regarding the Vincent Hills Quarry.

I urge all involved to proceed with an abundance of caution, exercise greater due diligence and consider what could happen. The Gulf of Mexico tragedy clearly illustrates what happens when profit comes before safety.
Presentation of documented communications Part I: 
The following is a copy of a letter from Colonial Pipeline to Tom Joiner & Associates, Robert T. Wood geologists for White Rock Quarries, from Sam Whitehead of Colonial Pipeline:

Wednesday March 3, 2010 8:18 am SWhitehe@colpipe.com
The following statement is from a Colonial engineer and details the basis of our determination that the proposed quarry does not cause undue concern regarding potential impacts to our pipelines in Shelby County.
Contact me if you need anything further.

Sam Whitehead
Public Affairs
Colonial Pipeline Company
678 762 2333
Cell: 404 272 3250

Statement of Colonial engineer:

I have reviewed the two reports provided to me in regards to the potential effects of the proposed quarry approximately 1.5 miles from our mainlines #1 and #2.
The "Hydrogeological and Subsidence Evaluation" dated November 24, 2009, prepared by White Rock Quarries, LLC's consulting geologists and engineers states that the greatest radius of influence from the quarry is 0.7 miles. In a conversation with Robert Wood, one of the author's of this report, on 2/22/2010, he stated that he expects a 0.2 foot change in groundwater elevation at 0.7 miles from the quarry. He also stated that they have observed 17.67 feet fluctuations of water depths in wells in this area, One could assume that a 0.2 foot change in groundwater elevation caused from quarry operations would be imperceptible with that much naturally occurring change.
On 2/25/2010, I spoke with Kevin Scott of Bhate Geosciences Corporation, who produced a report on the effects of the proposed quarry on a building owned by Vulcan Information Packaging(VIP) dated November 4, 2009. When I asked Kevin about the area of influence of the proposed quarry, he stated that the study they did was only to determine the effects of the proposed quarry on this particular site, and he did not have any information that they produced that he could share as far as the extent of the influence. He did share with me that there are published reports from the quarries (sic) people that stated the maximum area of influence was 0.7 miles. This is consistent with the other report that I reviewed.
It is my understanding that the change in groundwater levels in the areas with limestone (which is present in areas in this part of Alabama) is the cause of sinkholes.
From the information in these reports and from the above conversations, I conclude that the risk of sinkholes caused by the proposed quarry under Colonial's lines is not significantly greater than it would be without the quarry.

It is also my understanding that it has already been determined that blasting operations from this quarry's operations will not have an impact on Colonial's lines.
I did no analysis for blasting, and I assume that the previous analysis is correct.

Neal Coordes
Senior Mechanical Engineer
Engineering & Project Managing Team
Colonial Pipeline Company
678 762 2494 office
678 447 5561 mobile


Mr. Coordes did no blasting analysis himself and took the word of the quarry geologists and experts that there would be no risk to Colonial's pipelines. By contacting Mr. Scott, he did attempt to get more information, which was specific to only the immediate area of VIP plant, which is not near the pipelines. He should have done more than this with what is at stake. What seems to be conspicuously absent from this letter is that maximum area of influence (cone of influence) is measured from each pit, not an arbitrary measurement applied to the center of the quarry property.

Had Mr. Coordes or Mr. Whitehead spoken with Uday Bhate, who has done the public geologic presentations for Ebsco (VIP), Mr. Coordes would have known this. He would have also known that Mr. Bhate made it very clear that as the pit widens and deepens the cone of influence extends out farther and farther.

0.7 miles is not a distance regarding the cone of influence and groundwater fluctuations that remains constant and fixed in one place throughout the life of the quarry. It will change and move as the pits are dug and deepened and greater amounts of water are withdrawn.

Additionally, since quarries do not read reports, groundwater level fluctuations are changeable and also subject to geographic factors, pumpage rates and precipitation levels; a 0.2 level change in groundwater levels cannot be stated to be concrete with such unpredictable factors influencing it.

I do not accept anyone saying that they "expect a 0.2 change in groundwater levels 0.7 miles from the quarry" as an unchangeable fact based on the above. Especially with such a huge amount of groundwater that will be withdrawn by the quarry.

Karst terrain is by definition unstable. Sinkholes can form in unexpected areas, in particular where ground excavation and changes to the groundwater flow rate are disturbed.

Presentation of documented communications part II:
*The Vincent Water Board requested daily physical land subsidence monitoring that was denied by White Rock Quarries:

Same Memorandum from Robert Wood to the VPC, March 16, 2010, page 5, item 11:

The Subsidence Monitoring Plan does not include subsidence monitoring by reconnaissance. The Vincent Water Board requests that areas near the proposed quarry which are considered at risk of subsidence be physically monitored on a daily basis, including public roads, railroads and cemeteries:

Response:  White Rock does not believe it is best to traverse, daily adjacent properties such as public roads, railroads and cemeteries. Other subsidence monitoring techniques, plus visual observations along roadways, rail lines, industrial sites or private property will provide adequate early warning of possible subsidence. There is already an existing potential for subsidence in any of these areas and the public interests have been well served in the Vincent Community.
A daily requirement to monitor adjacent property would require one or two additional employees.
White Rock is willing to work with the Board to agree on an acceptable monitoring plan.

The Vincent Water Board's request is wise and "one or two additional employees" on the payroll of WRQ, to help ensure that potential problems are quickly detected, is a small price to pay in contrast to the millions of dollars in profit from the limestone extraction.

What also seems at odds is the blast radius of 1.5 miles, designated by WRQ and the cone of influence from groundwater fluctuations at just under half that distance. Why is one afforded a greater radius for potential damage and not the other?

There have been major discrepancies between Mr. Bhate's and Mr. Wood's geological presentations and manner in which they have done these presentations that raise questions. Both sides are hired to represent their client's interests, but Mr. Bhate has not once descended into the political aspect of this proposed quarry with name-calling, nor has he gone on the attack against anyone as Mr. Wood has done.

In the last public meeting at the firehouse in Vincent, Mr. Wood addressed the racial disparity in the land transactions; not one minority resident was approached to buy their land by WRQ. That seems out of place and inappropriate for any geologist to discuss.

Mr. Wood has downplayed the geological studies of John G. Newton (in this same memorandum), hired by the state of Alabama in the 1970s, to study the increased sinkholes and land subsidence in Shelby County, Alabama from groundwater withdrawal. Mr. Newton was a geologist of high credibility and extremely knowledgeable of the subject he wrote on. He did extensive studies in the Shelby County, Alabama area for the state and the USGS.

Presentation of Facts Part III:

The following statements are made by Mr. Wood in response to one of Mr. Newton's reports in the Dry Valley area of Montevallo, Alabama:

To: The Vincent Planning Commission
From: Robert T.Wood, Tom Joiner & Associates, Inc.
Date: 3/16/2010
Re: White Rock Quarries' responses to comments provided by (1) Mr. William R. Justice for the Town of Vincent and the Vincent Water Board by letter March 3, 2010 and the Vincent Planning Commission during March 4, 2010 Work Session (This letter also went to Kristine Goddard, Planner II Shelby County Department of Development Services)

Page 8, item 5:
John Newton's Publications regarding Dry Creek and Dry Creek Valley:

Response: "White Rock's Hydrogeological study acknowledges studies and publications by John Newton. However, Mr. Newton's study was performed over 40 years ago when operator's responses were different from today. In fact, in the early 1970s, sinkholes could be related to drought. He never determined how many of the sinkholes within his study area would have occurred anyway had there been no mining. The sinkholes that he documented occurred only within 4/10ths of a mile from the quarry in question.

The geology and hydrogeology of Dry Valley is very different form the Vincent area. Finally, the Dry Valley area, where Mr. Newton did his study, is also different from Vincent in that there are numerous quarries pumping groundwater instead of one quarry. This creates different circumstances than the proposed Vincent Hills Quarry site because numerous dewatering sites from three or more quarries creates a dewatered "zone" in-between the quarries.

Also with multiple quarry operators, the quarries in Dry Valley discharge across each other's cones of groundwater depression and the dewatered zones, inducing more sinkholes.
None of these activities will take place near Vincent."

Link to Mr. Newton's study "cited" by Robert Wood;

The terrain used to illustrate sinkhole development is a youthful basin underlain by carbonate
rocks such as limestone and dolomite (Figure 9.11.1). The basin contains a perennial or near-perennial stream. This particular terrain is used because it is very similar to that of 10
active areas of sinkhole development in Alabama that have been examined by the author. Factors related to the development of sinkholes that have been observed in these areas are generally applicable to other carbonate terrains.

(This is precisely the same description of the karst terrain for the Vincent area geology.)

9.11.3 CAUSE, Page 246
A relationship between the formation of sinkholes and high pumpage of water from new wells was recognized in Alabama as early as 1933 (Johnston, 1933). Subsequent studies in Alabama (Robinson and others, 1953; Powell and LaMoreaux, 1969; Newton and Hyde, 1971; Newton and others, 1973; and Newton, 1976) have verified this relationship. Dewatering or the continuous withdrawal of large quantities of water from carbonate rocks by wells, quarries, and mines in numerous areas in Alabama is associated with extremely active sinkhole development. Numerous collapses in these areas contrast sharply with their lack of occurrence elsewhere.
Two areas in Alabama in which intensive sinkhole development has occurred and is occurring
have been studied in detail. Both areas were made prone to the development of sinkholes by major declines of the water table due to the withdrawal of ground water.

Mr. Newton is very clear on the occurrence of sinkholes in relation to groundwater withdrawal in contrast to adjacent areas and drought conditions. He also says nothing in this study regarding "Numerous quarries were discharging across each others cones of dewatering" as Mr. Wood asserts.

Mr. Wood also omits one other obvious and much more important fact contrasting mining 40 years ago and today's mining; modern day quarries are capable of withdrawing larger amounts of groundwater and at a much greater GPM volume than they were 40 years ago.
I will argue that one quarry today can pull as much groundwater as three from forty years ago.

Presentation of Facts Part III continued:

In Alabama, most induced sinkholes related to water withdrawals from wells, except those drilled specifically for dewatering purposes, were found within 150 m of the site of withdrawal.
The yield of these wells commonly exceeds 22 l/s. Most sinkholes related to quarry operations were found within 600 m of the point of withdrawal; those related to mining operations can occur several kilometres from the point of withdrawal.

The range for sinkholes according to Mr. Newton is 600m (.38 miles) to several kilometers (3 km = 1.86 miles, 4km = 2.98 miles)

Mr. Wood claims Newton found sinkholes only within "4/10ths of a mile." He conveniently left off the second half of the statement which addressed the additional distance sinkholes can occur "related to mining operations."

Mr. Newton's study in comparison to Mr. Wood's claims, suggests that there is a huge disparity in the published facts and the recited ones.

The Colonial Pipeline and its distance from the quarry; which is well within the range of Mr. Newton's study results is likely vulnerable to sinkholes and subsidence from increased groundwater withdrawal by the quarry and in turn, rupture.

A strong case can be made for the ensuing danger to these pipelines and the grave environmental risk.

Presentation of Facts Part IV:
Shelby County's 2009 All Hazards Multi-Jurisdictional Mitigation Plan (AHMJMP) demonstrates on pages 4-20, that the concern for catastrophic incident is of high because of the pipeline's aging infrastructure, the suddenness of the disaster and the large scale environmental damage that can occur before authorities are made aware of the disaster.

But even more disturbing is the assumed preparedness of government officials to respond to a pipeline disaster quickly and effectively, as there already seems to be confusion over the appropriate entity entrusted with this responsibility.

More specifically, on page 7-26 the statement is made that;
"The State of Alabama, along with gas and oil pipeline providers, maintains a pipeline safety plan. Pipeline providers are required to schedule meetings with local officials to facilitate discussions about mitigation and response to pipeline disasters."
However, it is my understanding that the Colonial and Plantation Pipelines, because they are interstate pipelines, are under the oversight of the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA), a subdivision of the USDOT, not the State of Alabama.

I am troubled over this apparent error as it appears in Shelby County's AHMJMP, and am concerned that this represents a lack of clear understanding regarding the identity of first responding agency should a pipeline disaster occur.

This link to Shelby County's Hazard Mitigation Plan 2009 Amendments Sections shows there have already been issues with these pipelines.

*(It is interesting to note the numerous hazmat events of heavy industries releases and almost all fields for the amounts released are blank.  Included in these are benzene, arsenic, sulfuric acid, PCB s, xylene, "coal produced" liquid, sulfur dioxide, cyanide and mercury)

Seven events are from Colonial, and two of them are from Plantation pipeline.

Colonial Pipeline has already paid 34 million to the EPA, the largest civil suit in the agency's history. For the company to put themselves at risk for yet another incident is troubling. Particularly, when the letter submitted by Colonial to Robert Wood, essentially, absolves WRQ of legal responsibility should a rupture be caused by the quarrying activities.

NTSB file on South Carolina 1996 CP rupture in the Reedy River:

Page 9, Item 6 in Tom Joiner & Associates Memorandum from Robert T. Wood, March 16, 2010:
Response: Since White Rock received a favorable response from Colonial Pipeline regarding possible impacts from the proposed Vincent Hills Quarry, it is highly unlikely that Plantation Pipeline has concerns. It has not provided any negative information regarding the quarry. Plantation Pipeline is approximately 1.5 miles further away from the quarry than the Colonial Pipeline. Since proximity is a factor with respect to groundwater, subsidence and blasting, the fact that the Plantation Pipeline is twice as far from the proposed quarry, approximately three miles, ensures that it will not be impacted by White Rock's operations at the site.


Plantation Pipeline did not respond at all, so how does Mr. Wood arrive at the conclusion that they have no concerns? Of course they did not "provide any negative information regarding the quarry," they provided NO information at all.

This pipeline, at just less than 3 miles, is also within the range of Mr. Newton's study results for subsidence and sinkhole risks.

Looking at the most recent maps from WRQ, the Colonial pipeline is approximately 1.5 miles from the site; page 8 of 25; "Water Well Inventory and Pre Blast Survey Areas Map." Using the scale of miles provided on the legend of this map, the Colonial Pipeline is approximately 6000 ft. from the initial mining pit boundary. This makes it even closer to blasting and excavation by the quarry.

I do not understand why Colonial says it has "no undue concerns" about a massive quarry locating so close to its pipelines. The information they have received from Mr. Wood and White Rock does not accurately reflect the risks and in fact, it is not in keeping with the actual study of John Newton.

Additional Concerns:
For Mr. Coordes to state; "I did no analysis for blasting and assume the previous analysis is correct" seems perfunctory at best. Colonial and Plantation both should have an independent survey done by an impartial third party to fully understand the potential effects of the quarrying operations on it's pipelines.

In the current climate of the petroleum industry, these two companies should think ahead and exercise an abundance of caution. Shelby County should also follow suit and do the same. A rupture of these lines will have consequences outside of the Vincent area since they service the entire eastern seaboard and 13 major airports along the way.

Presentation of Facts Part V:
The Coosa River was just placed on the list of the most endangered rivers in the United States and since the Colonial line runs under the river, this should be taken into consideration as well.

A conversation with Matt Rice of American Rivers on Tuesday, June 12, 2010 about this quarry locating so close to the Coosa was revealing. He told me if they had known about this proposed quarry, it would have been considered when writing their report on the river's status, since the quarry will be operating within a mile of the river and excavating far below its depth.

An argument can be made that Colonial's pipeline faces an additional threat on this issue as well.


In the absence of independent studies by third party geologists without interests to White Rock Quarries, other industry "insiders" or individuals acting on their behalf including geologists, we have no unbiased information of the effects of this proposed quarry.

Bhate Geosciences, despite their strong reputation and credibility, has had their attempts to present another view dismissed by our local officials, Shelby County and White Rock Quarries.

The city of Vincent refuses to secure an independent despite offers to pay for this on more than one occasion by Ebsco industries. In a recent City Council meeting, the Mayor of Vincent stated; "We don't have money to pay for one," even though he was aware, the offer was made to pay for one.

It would appear that those directly involved in this proposition are not interested in opposing viewpoints and they do their citizens and the environment a tremendous disservice and possibly great harm by taking this closed-minded position.

The location of this quarry is risky at best; what could go wrong is compelling and probable. To proceed with this proposal in the absence of more thorough investigation and study, borders on willful disregard for the safety of the local community and beyond, in addition to the environmental assaults that can occur with consequences that will require attention for years to come.

One more thing that is important to consider comes from a long time resident of Vincent that was at the scene of a Colonial Pipeline repair a few years ago. This person is a master electrician and drives many of the area roads on a daily basis in the course of his work.

His words: 
"I came up on the Vincent Police (VP) guarding an area by the road a few years ago where the pipeline guys were working. I stopped and got out to see why they were there and what was being done, they had dug out all around the pipeline. I asked the VP why they were guarding the area. A Colonial Pipeline guy popped his head up and said; "If a car runs off the road and hits this pipeline, causing it to rupture, everything within 1/4 mile eastward of the rupture will be gone."
When asked what "gone" meant, the CP worker said; "It will be burned up or covered in oil."
Federal regulations state that it may take "up to 15 minutes to stop the flow in the event of a pipeline rupture."

Considering the high pressure these pipelines are under 15 minutes is a long time.

"Everything within 1/4 mile eastward of the rupture will be gone."

We would like to ask the Governor of this state why he thinks it is a good idea for this quarry to come in, to supply materials for his elevated highway project, knowing that these pipelines, which supply the entire eastern seaboard, will be highly vulnerable to rupture from the effects of the quarry.

Especially since a rupture has huge consequences outside of Alabama.

This is a disaster waiting to happen, to Vincent, to Alabama, to other states, and our Governor is willing to risk a lot for "his project." 

Colonial Pipeline has had problems in the past and seem negligent in their duty to comprehensively study this proposal with independent, credible outside geologists and engineers. 
Colonial owns and operates a 36-inch pipeline extending from Houston to New York which transports petroleum products. In late June 1996, Colonial's pipeline ruptured at its junction with the Reedy River in Greenville County, spilling approximately one million gallons of diesel fuel into the river.
Gurley, Alabama came out against Colonial Pipeline in the late 1990s:

WRQ has already caused huge environmental issues in Florida with the benzene in the drinking water supply;

Stephen Bradley's (WRQ PR Rep) actions at the Emelle, Alabama Landfill in the early 1990s are well documented in the media and ADEM files on the illegal radioactive waste dumping and PCBs contamination.
(Google news papers have these stories in their archives and we have the ADEM files on it. Mr. Bradley is described as a Chem Waste spokesman in the article, but he is in fact the President of the company at Emelle.)
Google link to one story:

No one involved in this quarry proposal has a history of being cautious, environmentally conscious, responsible to public safety and adequately following the federal regulations imposed on their interests.

Vecellio, along with other major corporations has very deep pockets.
It is cheaper to allegedly bribe and pay a few fines and settle lawsuits (after 10-15 years of delay) than it is to be a "good neighbor."

This is not a quarry proposal, it is Alabama's oil spill, and it can happen. 
(originally posted May 29, 2010)

" Serpent head" Gets Worked Up About Oil Spill

(We mean no disrespect and are using a term the press sometimes uses to refer to Carville)
On yesterday's CNN State of the Union program, Candy Crowley had an interesting commentary panel: Donna Brazile, Joe Johns and James Carville. They were discussing factors that seemed to further explain the glaringly inadequate lack of productive measures to the BP oil spill.

Carville was in rare form even for him and taking Obama and the federal government to task for not doing more to help Louisiana.  He lives there and his passion is understandable because he is watching his "home" being utterly destroyed.

But something he said resonated; "If this had been Nantucket or Palm Beach it would have been handled differently." He is absolutely right and the other two panelists agreed with him that the poorer people of the south get a raw deal more often than not.

Joe Johns acknowledged that government and big business know these people do not have "deep pockets in these areas to fight back against corporations."

Vincent knows just what all of them mean by what they were saying; we are living with it every day fighting Vecellio and White Rock Quarries.

Emelle, Alabama knows what they mean with the radioactive dumping by Chemical Waste.

Perry County, Alabama knows what they mean by having tons of coal ash dumped on them from the TVA spill.

If you're poor and live in small town Alabama, you don't really matter in the eyes of these fiends or even your own state and local government. You, are expendable it seems, and forced to live with toxins and heavy industry while the perpetrators get richer.

The sole regulatory authority for our our state, ADEM, is more or less in league with the poisoners.

Friday, May 28, 2010

Governor Riley Visits Vincent, But We Bet You Didn't Know He Did

The proverbial cat is out of the bag folks.

The Vincent Hills Quarry will be supplying the materials for the elevated highway 280 project. Vecellio and Grogan will probably be one of the bidders through ALDOT. We will be going to Montgomery next week to check ALDOTs lettings on this.

When you live in a one horse town like Vincent, Alabama it is big news that the Governor is coming to visit. One would expect announcements, and maybe something in the Shelby County Reporter along with bragging by City Hall that the "big cheese" is in town.

None of this happened two Sundays ago. Not a peep about it since. Why?

Governor Riley came to the First Baptist Church in Vincent (the root of money and power in Vincent along with being the Mayor's church), and was "introduced" to the congregation by former Shelby County judge Sonny Conwill. Riley stated he had "friends that go this church" which Sonny Conwill certainly is as he was appointed by Riley to the bench in Columbiana. 

But Riley used the plural form of the word "friends."

One of those other friends would be Mayor Ray McAllister of Vincent. Isn't that a coincidence....?

Mayor McAllister’s previous statements to the press SCR Reporter:

August 26, 2008
As to the future, McAllister said, "We've got to do some business development, economic development to get our revenue up."

He also said, "I'm going to work with my contacts at the state level to see if we can get some things to help our revenues."

He said those contacts were friends he could contact to let them know "Vincent exits."

October 27, 2008:
McAllister plans to work with the industrial development board to look at prospective businesses that could come to Vincent, hopefully bringing jobs for residents. He said he’d like to see an employer bring 200 jobs to the area.
(My, what a convenient number he just happens to "come up with"--a similar number to the quarry promises.)

Eventually, McAllister wants Vincent to be well-known — and not just in Shelby County.

"We want the people from the county level, to the state level, to the federal level to know Vincent exists." he said.

We suspect Mr. Riley was here reassuring the Mayor and the City Council that it would be fine to go ahead and vote the massive quarry in, nothing will happen to them as far as ethics and corruption issues, he will make sure of it. Riley has been a big proponent of the elevated highway project as everyone in the state knows.

The Town of Vincent voted in a resolution for the elevated highway at their last meeting including in the ordinance that; "The Town of Vincent believes this resolution is vital to its survival."

Really? It's that important Mayor McAllister?

We are five miles away from 280 and even farther from where the elevated highway would end on 280, approximately 10 additional miles.. This is a nonsensical statement, unless it has "other" meaning; revenue from the quarry, which makes sense because hauling rock is very expensive and a quarry closer to the construction would cut down on those expenses greatly.

The Mayor went on tell the council that it was important everybody sign the resolution and they get it to the Governor ASAP. There was also discussion from the Mayor who attended an ALDOT meeting about the project, and how they have changed the design to make it aesthetically more appealing; adding landscaping and lowering bridge heights. He repeated this at least three times.

It is starting to make sense now why Senator French, the entire Shelby County Delegation, the Shelby County Commission, Senators Shelby and Sessions have been silent to the citizens of Vincent, despite numerous phone calls and emails to all of them.

Bradley Byrne, Judge Dan Reeves and Steve French's election brochures are in city hall and included in the City Councils' materials at each meeting. Why is that? I bet Stephen Bradley could tell us.

Shelby County Commission chair Lindsey Allison, a family law practitioner, has been hired by White Rock Quarries as yet another member of their legal team. It's news to us that quarries need family law attorneys.Surely this is a major conflict of interest and ethics violation as we reported on in a previous post.

Far too many things have happened to not see what is really going on here with this quarry proposal; highway 280.

As we said above, it is much less expensive and more convenient to get the road materials from Vincent than the other side of the county for the elevated highway 280 project.

And it is convenient that WRQs parent company, Vecellio,  has asphalt and road building subsidiaries.

ALDOT is putting the heat on Harpersville to redo Highway 76, which will also be a part of the quarry truck transportation routes and they are hoping no one makes the connection. So far, the Mayor, Theo Perkins is standing strong. We hope he can stop the project to also save his own town which sits on a lot of limestone.

If you are against the proposed elevated highway, you should also be against this quarry proposed for Vincent, Alabama.

Make no mistake, the fix is in and we have to fight like hell citizens of Vincent and Hwy. 280.

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Bham News Editorial Board BARD & SWMA, Shelby & JeffCo Oct 2009

Article presented in entirety in case of archiving, which will require a fee to view.

OUR VIEW: With storm water cooperative gutted,Jefferson County cities will find it harder to meet tougher federal clean water requirements

By Birmingham News editorial board

October 26, 2009, 5:32AM
Developers and large industrial landowners won their battle in gutting the cooperative that monitors storm water runoff for area local governments. But examples continue to surface that their Pyrrhic victory could come back to haunt them and the local governments that sided with them.

In July, an audit by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency found that Shelby County's program for detecting and preventing pollution from storm water runoff was deficient, and the county could face possible penalties.
(see links to the right on Shelby County federal audit and SWMA)

That was significant, because Shelby County's program had been held up as a model by the Business Alliance for Responsible Development, a group of developers and big landowners bent on dismantling Jefferson County's cooperative, the Storm Water Management Authority. Developers contend SWMA was doing too much in its oversight of storm water runoff and that Shelby County had it right.

The EPA audit proved the opposite. River protection advocates, such as the Cahaba River Society and the Alabama Rivers Alliance, were right when they warned that the EPA would require more stringent efforts, not less, in meeting requirements of the federal Clean Water Act.

Last week, the federal agency again proved the river protectors were right. The EPA fined a Chelsea developer and Sheffield utility for storm water runoff and waste disposal violations.

More important, the EPA, under a new administration, said its enforcement actions were meant to send "a strong message about the importance of protecting rivers, lakes and streams across the Southeast." That involves stepping up oversight of state clean water programs, including more aggressive enforcement at smaller pollution sources such as construction and drainage sites.

This is an area in which the Alabama Department of Environmental Management has been particularly lacking. "EPA knows that ADEM is not doing enough, and in the process of looking over ADEM's shoulder, EPA has found it necessary to take action themselves," Nelson Brooke of the Black Warrior Riverkeeper told News staff writer Thomas Spencer.

That is another indirect rebuke of BARD, which, in trying to convince area governments to leave SWMA, said the cooperative was infringing on the duties of ADEM. But it's clear ADEM wasn't up to the task, and SWMA was badly needed.

Unfortunately, BARD was able to persuade enough of the major governments in SWMA -- Birmingham, Hoover, Bessemer and Jefferson County among them -- to pull out, ensuring the cooperative couldn't afford to continue its water-testing and monitoring functions.

Last month, SWMA's board, which consists of the mayors of the 20 remaining cities, voted to send the agency's workers, who are county employees, back to the county and to contract with the Jefferson County Health Department to carry out the water testing and pollution detection inspections SWMA had done. While the step was necessary, the Health Department doesn't have the expertise SWMA did in meeting the federal mandates.

In addition, those cities that left SWMA are on their own in operating their storm water management programs. And they're going to have to meet the stricter requirements of the federal government, something they were in much better shape to do with SWMA.

 Reader's comment:
Posted by bhaml******
October 28, 2009, 6:49AM
The Big Mules continue to treat AL like a plantation. And the politicians in their pocket continue to prostitute themselves for a few bucks. It is depressing living here some days.

Stephen Bradley & Rob Fowler at it once again.
Nothing BARD does is positive for anyone other than their own selfish, greedy interests and the "clients" they represent.
We can expect the same in Vincent since both of them are representing WRQ.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

The Latest on Our Situation in Vincent, Alabama

The appearance of impropriety, "inside baseball" and the arrogance of officials continues to mount regarding the White Rock Quarries Vincent Hills quarry proposal.

On May 24, 2010, a County Commission (SCC) meeting was held in Columbiana that further illustrates the counties glaring lack of due diligence and continued efforts to rush this process.

These include:

1. The meeting was presided over by  SCC Chair Lindsey Allison, a lawyer who has allegedly been hired by WRQ as an additional attorney to represent their interests.
(A local citizen has provided us with a copy of a letter written to SC Manager Ray Hamilton, Planner II, K. Goddard and SC Planning Dept. Head David Hunke, asking for confirmation of this. We will report on their response as soon as it provided to us.)
**UPDATE 12:56pm May 25, 2010; we have just received confirmation that Ms. Allison has been hired by WRQ. Ethics Violations will be forthcoming. This is a clear case of conflicting interests.

2. Road Commissioner present (name not provided) stated that the increase of trucks on two local county roads from 25 daily (in the quarry proposal) to 75 daily (no explanation given for the increase) is in his opinion; "Not that many trucks."
(A citizen pointed out that his number was inaccurate as it only included the trucks, not the number of trips as most traffic studies are based on. Delivery and pickup moves the number to 150. The Road Commissioner dismissed this observation as still; "Not that many trucks.")

3. The SCC meeting was called to discuss the transformation on (2) two lane county roads into state truck routes benefiting the quarry.

4. A row of men seated in the rear of the room made a comment in a snide manner about the increase of people in attendance which was uncalled for.
(One of the older female minority residents of Vincent was wearing a "No Quarry" shirt and when she rose from her seat this comment was made; "So that's what this is all about," which was followed by snarky laughter.)

5. Discussion was limited by the SCC based on; 'We can't talk too much about this right now."

We would like to know why the SCC is even discussing this at all right now based on the following:
A) The quarry has not been voted on by the City Council of Vincent
B) The postponed public hearing that must happen before the vote has not been rescheduled. Ample time has passed for this to occur.
C) After the CC votes, the quarry still has to be permitted by ADEM and a public hearing must also occur before that happens.

It seems reasonable to us that the SCC  knows something the citizens do not and that is why they are discussing the road conversions prematurely. The quarry is being rushed through and due diligence has not been exercised in a responsible manner.

The issue was raised regarding liability should an accident or fatality occur from one of these trucks. It was not answered satisfactorily.The SCC also left off their "Home Rule" amendment language which is part of the Alabama Constitution and states: "The Legislature reserves the right to waive or limit the county's liability."

That would be important for any plaintiff to know in the event of any legal proceedings.

The SCC, WRQ and the Town of Vincent has still not adequately addressed the important concerns of citizens in the River Loop area or the residents on CR 62 and CR 85, as to what would be the solution if a truck causes an accident, blocks the road and delays medical personnel to quickly access a victim. 

It is established fact in the medical community that certain medical conditions (i.e. cardiac, stroke, severe respiratory distress and massive trauma) are dependent on the first hour of care for the optimal outcome to be achieved. Survival rates are also tied directly to the "first hour."

If Highway 62  is blocked for any reason, medical personnel will be required to take an alternate route to access victims in the River Loop area, which will inevitably reduce the "first hour."

No one it seems is concerned enough about these issues to produce any clear answers or mitigation plans.

The rush to collect the tax dollars seems mightier than human life and that is completely against societal standards, but a familiar story in the land of cotton and corruption.

**Editors note: Mr Joel Bearden SCC, Mr. Robert Owens SC DA, should also recuse themselves due to being beneficiaries of the Bearden Quarry Trust, a partnership with Vulcan Materials, Co. in Helena and set up by Joel Bearden in 1968. 

Monday, May 24, 2010

The Gadsden Times May 20, 2010 on ADEM

Our View: Riley can leave his mark with appointment 
Published: Thursday, May 20, 2010 at 7:58 p.m.
The appointments Riley will make in the next few months will go a long way toward determining whether LeFleuer is successful and what course Alabama takes regarding the environment. 
We hope he chooses wisely.

Anita Archie recently resigned as chair of the Environmental Management Commission which, oversees the Alabama Department of Environmental Management. Archie’s service was controversial from the standpoint that she was hired in January to be the chief lobbyist for the Business Council of Alabama, many of whose members were regulated by the environmental agency.

Archie’s resignation means there are two vacancies on the commission and members are appointed for six years. The terms of two other members expire before Riley leaves office, so he will appoint four of the seven members of the commission in coming months. 

The post vacated by Archie on the EMC is an at-large position, open to anyone who has been a resident of the state for at least two years. The other position that is vacant must be filled by someone with a degree in ecology or biology. An engineer must be appointed to fill one of the two positions that come open in September; the other must be filled by a physician. For the record, the requirement for the other positions on the commission call for an attorney licensed to practice law in the state, a chemist or veterinarian and an individual certified by the National Water Well Association certification program.

ADEM also has gone through a transition recently, with Trey Glenn resigning in December after four years as director. Lance LeFleuer, owner of a Mobile recycling business, was named as his replacement in April.
LeFleuer will have his hands full, running an agency that chronically is underfunded and battered from both sides. Business and industry protests regulations, while environmentalists want the agency to be more active in enforcing environmental protections.
A recent article from Calera on the continued problems they are having with their sewage treatment:
Calera provides update on sewer treatment project
Published Wednesday, May 19, 2010
Calera officials will have six years to phase in stricter water quality standards at one of its wastewater treatment plants, city officials announced during a May 19 City Council meeting.

The gradual phase-in will come at no additional cost to Calera for at least the first year, Doug Smedley, director of the city’s sewer and wastewater operations, told the council.

The Alabama Department of Environmental Management recently announced it would require Calera’s wastewater treatment facility on Buxahatchee Creek to be capable of generating water with no more than 0.06 parts per million of phosphorous.
Editors note: Buxahatchee is a tributary to the Coosa River.

The new requirements will be down significantly from the facility’s current limit of 0.57 parts per million. Although city officials originally feared the new limit would be enforced this year, it will submit a six-year plan to ADEM May 20.

The facility is currently capable of achieving limits as low as 0.3 parts per million, but it will require additional equipment to achieve lower levels, Smedley said.

“We can make the initial reduction numbers without any modifications to the facility,” Smedley said.

A new centrifuge at the plant will allow the city to achieve phosphorous levels lower than 0.3 parts per million, and the city already has the money needed to purchase the component, Smedley said.

However, the centrifuge alone will not bring the phosphorous levels low enough to meet the standard ADEM will enact in six years, and Calera likely will be forced to find ways to fund further upgrades at the facility.

“That last part is what we are going to have to figure out funding for,” Smedley said. “We shouldn’t have any additional capital expenditures in next year’s budget.

“Hopefully, we will improve the system for three or four years, and then when we have to renew with ADEM after that, they will say we can stop where we are,” Smedley added. “I’ve seen that happen numerous times before.”
How ridiculous is this story? This facility has been discharging huge amounts of waste water into Buxahatchee Creek for a long time. Buxahatchee Creek feeds into the Lower Coosa River which is already "impaired" according to state regulatory agencies and under a fish advisory.

Six years to fix their problems???? Great work ADEM as usual.

Mr. Smedley knows ADEM will not force their hand, it never forces anyone's hand when it comes to polluting Alabama and enforcing EPA standards. That's why he can so smugly say; "...they will tell us we can stop where we are, I've seen that happen numerous times before."

And we will see it again over and over because ADEM is a chronically weak agency with no impetus to change.

We have no faith Mr. LeFleuer will be any different.

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Sinkholes Plague Tarrant, Alabama Bham News 2008

View Larger Map

Maybe the city officials should go over to Vulcan Materials Co., the quarry pictured here, and hand them a bill.

We acknowledge drought and heavy rains do cause sinkholes, but with as many as are happening in the area of the quarry and no where else in Tarrant, something else is definately contributing to the problem.

Birmingham News 
October 22, 2008
Sinkhole repairs sinking into Tarrant budget
DANA JAFFE News staff writer
The city of Tarrant has had to repair yet another sinkhole caused by the drought.

The most recent one, on Pinson Street, cost $112,000 for Parrot Construction to fix. The Tarrant Street Department had to rebuild the street, too before it could be reopened. Mayor Loxcil Tuck said this was the seventh sinkhole repaired, and the process has taken its toll on the city. ''People can't even drive through the city while the sink holes are being worked on,'' Tuck said.

At least two more remain that will have to be taken care of in the coming months. One is in the alley between Jackson and Virginia streets and the other in a drainage ditch between Pinson Street and Alabama 79.

Tuck said the city has already spent $350,000. ''Sure it is affecting our budget,'' she said. ''We are not going to be able to do many things we could've otherwise done this year.''
(***Editors note; a story recently in the news stated Tarrant is having to cut funds to its schools.)

Birmingham News 
September 3, 2008 
Drought, heavy rains lead to sinkholes
ANNE RUISI News staff writer
TARRANT--- Blame it on the two-year drought, blame it on the drenching remnants of Tropical Storm Fay that soaked Alabama a few weeks ago. The outcome is irrefutable: sinkholes have been opening up.

Almost 30 have appeared in the past two years, many of them in the past three months, city officials said.

''We even had one in the parking lot behind City Hall. It could eat two cars'' and was about 15 feet across, said Elvin Horton, Tarrant's building inspection officer. The latest two are one in the 300 block of Clow Lane, which has been fixed, and one in the 1500 block of Pinson Street, which was being repaired last week, Horton said. Pinson Street, particularly in the 1500, 1700 and 1800 blocks, has had at least eight sinkholes, according to a city tally last week.

At least six have been reported in the 1700 block of Jackson Boulevard and at least four in the 1100, 1200 and 1500 blocks of Elizabeth Avenue. And in the past three months the city has spent more than $250,000 repairing sinkholes, said Mayor Loxcil B. Tuck. She said she's contacted state and federal officials to try and secure additional funding.

The sinkholes vary in size but some have been massive, such as one of the Jackson Boulevard holes. That sinkhole measured a bit less than 100 feet long and stretched across the street from sidewalk to sidewalk. That repair alone cost the city $140,000, Tuck and Horton said.

Sinkholes form when water naturally moves through porous underground rock, such as the limestone Tarrant sits on, and creates cavities in the bedrock. When water fills the cavity, the walls and ceiling are supported. If the water table drops, a sinkhole can result. Engineers assisting the city said the drought has had an effect, the mayor said. ''We sit on rock. The water table dropped,'' which eventually led to the creation of sinkholes, Tuck said.

The drought was blamed for a giant sinkhole early this year that swallowed a backyard and crept toward a house in Birmingham's Bush Hills Neighborhood. Within days, it had swallowed the backyard and crept toward the house, leaving the back deck dangling.
(***Editors note; this house is less than one mile from the quarry at 1-59 /20)
Link to story:

Heavy rains can trigger sinkholes as the weight of a large amount of water can collapse an underground cavity. The area's recent heavy rains drenched the area and ''worsened our problem with sinkholes,'' Tuck said.
(***Editors note; We get a large amount of rainfall in the Vincent area, we also sit on limestone, but don't get sinkholes like this. At least not yet........once WRQ  starts up that will probably change)

City officials said they have no idea when the sinkholes will end, and there's evidence more are trying to form.

Across the street from The Keg restaurant, for example, there are new cracks in the sidewalk and there's evidence the curb is dropping. That signals a lack of support underneath the ground, Horton said.

On the advice of a consultant, the city hired a company to inject grout into selected areas around the cracks - so far, 1,600-1,700 cubic feet. ''Hopefully it will stabilize the soil underneath there,'' he said. aruisi@bhamnews.com  

Here is a list of the locations and status of the sinkholes that have occurred in Tarrant in the past two years, many of them in the past three months, according to Elvin Horton, the city's building inspection officer.

1500 Mountain Drive. On private property. Sinkhole area fenced in, but it keeps growing.
1512 Wharton Ave. On private property. Not repaired.
1500 block of Elizabeth Avenue. Fixed.
Intersection of Ford Avenue and Jackson Boulevard. Fixed.
Jackson Boulevard, adjacent to the Ford Avenue-Jackson Boulevard hole. Fixed.
1710 Jackson Blvd., gutter in front of an office. Fixed.
1700 block of Jackson Boulevard, 75 feet along the east half of the street. Fixed.
1700 block of Jackson Boulevard, a bit less than 100 feet long, stretched across the street from sidewalk to sidewalk. Fixed after $140,000 in repairs.
1213 Elizabeth Ave. alley. Not fixed.
1201 Elizabeth Ave. On private property. Not fixed.
1700 block of Jackson Boulevard, under new water pipes. One fixed; the other to be fixed.
East Lake Boulevard, under tire cage at Tire City. On private property. Filled in.
1500 block of Pinson Street, around The Keg restaurant. One behind the site not fixed; one in front and the other, just south of The Keg, fixed.
1700 block of Pinson Street, under new water lines. Not fixed
1800 Pinson Street, in front of Parr's old auto shop. On private property. Filled in.
1800 Pinson St. Parr's storage lot. On private property. Filled.
1800 block of Pinson Street, between this block and Alabama 79. Private property, but in the city's drainage easement. Filled in, but the sinkhole has eaten the fill and reopened. City plans to do the work again.
1816 Pinson St., lot adjacent to Barrington Realty. On private property. Filled in.
1840 Pinson St., parking lot facing Bethel Avenue, into the public street. Filled in, then sinkhole recurred. Now fixed.
1800 block of Pinson Valley Parkway, alley between Pinson Street and Pinson Valley Parkway. Fixed. Parking lot behind City Hall. Fixed.
300 block of Clow Lane. Fixed.
1700 block of Jackson Boulevard (2). One is fixed, the other is to be repaired.
1100 block of Elizabeth Avenue, parking lot at Tarrant Post Office. Fixed.
1500 block of Pinson Street. In process of being fixed.

Why are all of these sinkholes happening within a mile radius of the quarry and not anywhere else in Tarrant?  Who is telling them that all of their sinkhole problems are caused by the drought or a hurricane?

Shelby County Highway 23 Sinkhole January 2010 & Bham Map of I-59/20 area showing nearby quarry & sinkhole areas

View Larger Map

The Birmingham News writer Malcolm Daniel missed the real story, which is this map and what it shows as the likely culprit for the latest sinkhole and why "it is an area with past problems of sinkholes."

There was initially a picture on the web showing the actual sinkhole before it was repaired, it somehow "disappeared " when we tried to find it again. Calls to the Birmingham News were unsuccessful in locating it, but they did give it a good effort which was appreciated.

60 feet wide is a big hole.

We wonder how much that cost ALDOT and Shelby County to repair which in turn translates to the Alabama taxpayers, but not the likely culprits-- the adjacent quarries.

Dry Valley was the location of the "December Giant." The USGS has documented 4000+ sinkholes in this area and an additional; 2000+ nearby.

Sinkhole throttles Shelby County highway 23 

January 11, 2010, 5:25PM
(photo: Frank Couch/Birmingham News)

A segment of Shelby County Highway was closed by a sinkhole about 20 yards wide.

Shelby County has escaped any major road problems due to recent cold weather, but it has had to deal with a sinkhole that formed in the southern part of the county.

Crews have been working to fix a sinkhole about 20 yards wide in the middle of Shelby County highway 23.

Shelby 23 is off Alabama 25 west of Calera in an area known as Dry Valley.

It is an area with past problems of sinkholes. 

The road is open only to local traffic, said County Engineer Randy Cole. Crews have filled the sinkhole and hope to have the area paved by the middle of the week, he said.

***Edit on previous I 65 sinkhole post; WHNT TV picture gallery link added, 25 photos, video of HUGE excavation required to repair the sinkhole, with the Huntsville Times story link.
***Edit to "December Giant aka Golly Hole" post as well. 

The following article is from the Birmingham News May 13, 2000, and included in full due to archived status which requires a fee to view. Excerpt of the article appears in "December Giant" post :

Sinkholes Don't Sink Shelby
Ginny McDonald, staff writer
Bill Lawler had a rescue mission at his farm Wednesday near Calera: He used his tractor to pull a truckload of fertilizer out of a sinkhole.

Life with sinkholes is an everyday occurrence for Lawler and his wife, Ann, who live on Shelby County 25. There are more than a dozen sinkholes on his 300-acre farm.

Through geological tests, the Lawlers learned there's another possible sinkhole in the making near their home. 

''One day that will go,'' Ann Lawler said. ''It won't affect the house - they say.''

She describes her area of Shelby County as a geologist's heaven. She's right. A seven-by-three mile corridor between Shelby County 22 and Shelby County 25 between Calera and Montevallo has the largest concentration of sinkholes in the state, geologists say.

The area is more susceptible to sinkholes because the corridor is in a valley underlain by carbonate rocks, which are more susceptible to dissolution by groundwater. Surrounding areas do not have as much limestone.

But sinkholes don't stop development in the state's fastest growing county. Bankers know it. Developers know it. County officials know it. So they've made provisions to protect themselves from bad loans and lawsuits that might arise from large holes in the ground.

Calera keeps mapmakers busy. Its recent annexations have taken it halfway to Columbiana and into Chilton County. And it's in the heart of sinkhole territory.

''It's like Swiss cheese down there,'' said Shelby County planner Todd McDonald.

The county Planning Commission requires developers to release the Sinkholes, and county from liability if they are building in a sinkhole-prone area.
The policy is believed to be the only one of its kind in the state.

Mortgage lenders require buyers to get sinkhole insurance if the property they're buying is in Shelby County's sinkhole-prone areas, according to real estate attorneys.

Attorney Frank Bynum said he encourages all buyers to get sinkhole insurance.
''I tell them if your house falls down a mine shaft, you are still going to owe the money. People buy fire insurance, why not sinkhole insurance'' he said.
The insurance costs 30 to 35 a year.

Sinkhole causes
Sinkholes also can be caused by traffic or construction vibrations, drilling or water being pumped from the ground. Even building a lake can put weight on the underground ''roof'' causing it to collapse. 

''If a lot of construction is going on, the land surface is being disturbed and that could cause a sinkhole,'' said Dorothy Raymond, geologist for the Alabama Geological Survey, based in Tuscaloosa. 

And there's a lot of activity in the state's fastest-growing county.

Shelby County 16 runs through the sinkhole concentration. Sinkholes occur so often that county officials just leave the ''road closed'' signs up all the time.

''That road is a terrible stretch of geology to have to maintain,'' said county engineer Randy Cole. ''It sinks so frequently that we just cover up the signs when it's opened.''

Well-known sinkholes spread across state There are many well-known sinkholes of note besides Shelby County's Golly Hole. There have been no deaths associated with sinkholes reported in Alabama in recent history. 

***Editors note: deaths have occurred in Shelby County as alluded to in geology reports, we are still trying to find the cases which has proven to be difficult.

Interstate 20 at Riverside: 
A bridge was built over a sinkhole when the interstate was constructed in 1964. The disguised bridge appears to be a part of the roadway.

Interstate 59/20, south of Arkadelphia Road exit: 
Road grade bridges were built in 1977 after the southbound lanes began to collapse. Last month three new sinkholes were found alongside the interstate.
***Editors note; there is a quarry in the area, longtime residents report numerous sinkholes and think the quarry is to blame. From the map below it appears they are right:

View Larger Map

Roberts Field Industrial Area, Birmingham near I-59/20: 
In March 1970, a warehouse and office building collapsed. Geologists found 97 sinkholes in the area including those along I-59/20 and 30 along the Frisco Railroad. The average size of sinkholes found was 10 feet wide, 12 feet long and eight feet deep.  
(**See map above, RR runs right next to quarry below the holding "pond", Roberts Industrial Field Industrial Area is adjacent on the on the west side of the quarry. Map viewed in larger view shows all quarries and pits in Birmingham area. Note how close to major highways most of them are.) 

Interstate 459 near Greenwood: 
More than 150 sinkholes were found in the planned right of way for the interstate in 1974 ranging in size from three feet to 75 feet wide, from three feet to 144 feet long and from three to 30 feet deep. State highway officials solved the problem by either building bridges or cutting the right of way down to the bedrock surface and filling in with rock. 
Logan Martin Dam: The dam is built over a sinkhole. Workers have poured more concrete into the limestone fractures located some 500 feet beneath the dam than it took to build the dam. 
***Editors note: Alabama Power has provided a letter to WRQ stating that they "do not think the nearby Vincent quarrying operations will affect the Logan Martin Dam, which is 5 miles away. It already has a huge sinkhole problem, what if the continued repairs fail with an additional massive load on the local groundwater withdrawal? What can happen? What will happen? Someone needs to ask those questions soon.

Hale County: 
In 1990, an oil and gas rig had reached a depth of 755 feet while drilling when the ground started to cave in; within two hours the rig had disappeared.

Hewitt-Trussville Junior High School:  
City officials paid 227,895 in 1999 to fill a sinkhole near the school.

Montevallo Middle School: 
Parts of the building sank 10 inches in 1992. 

Two additional stories of interest from the Birmingham News 2009:
(**Note the attorney for Lafarge and his attitude, This is near the I 59/20 quarry)

EPA Reports and USA Today "Smokestack Effect" Special Report indicate USS Pipe is a major polluter. This dust being "harmless" as the USS Pipe official is implying is highly suspect in its validity:
**We will contact JeffCo and see if the reports are available and what they have or have not done about the situation.