Neighbors near quarry raise concerns about damage to homes


It’s a blast that can shake 40,000 tons of rock in a single second. But a company denies their explosions are damaging homes near an Antioch quarry.

Homeowners in the Town Park Estates subdivision contacted the Channel 4 I-Team over concerns that years of blasting had caused damage to their homes.

“I need an answer,” said Freddie McDonald, who’s lived on Melvin Jones Drive since 1995. “I need to get my home fixed in a bad way.”

When McDonald looks at his home of 22 years, he first sees the flaws.

“Cracks on top of cracks, and it’s just destroying your home,” McDonald said. “Who would buy this house?”

In recent years, McDonald says he’s noticed the formation of cracks inside and outside his home, as well as widening gaps between the windows and brick. McDonald has also spent more than $4,000 repairing his chimney, which appears to be moving away from the house.

McDonald blames the damage on blasting from the Danley rock quarry, which sits just 1,800 feet away.

“It [feels] like a minor earthquake,” said Ron Simpson, another homeowner who has lived in the neighborhood for 11 years. “This is not California.”

Simpson said he also thinks blasting damaged his foundation. He uses a brick just to keep his bed level. The floors of his home appear slanted, an issue Simpson said he did not encounter upon first buying the home.

“I don’t have enough money to buy another house,” Simpson said. “I don’t have enough money to fix this.”

But the operator of the quarry, Vulcan Materials Company, denied responsibility for the damage.

“Can you say without a shadow of a doubt that blasting has not affected their homes?” asked reporter Alanna Autler.

“I absolutely can,” said Jimmy Fleming, the vice president of permitting and external relations for Vulcan Materials Company.

Fleming said Vulcan has operated the quarry since 1957, and the quarry itself has existed for more than 100 years.

Fleming told the I-Team their blasting complies with state guidelines, which is set far below the threshold that damages buildings.

Around the property, seismographs monitor the vibrations for every blast conducted.

“The secret is not to create the kind of vibration that can cause damage,” Fleming said.

In the past year, the company reportedly received 10 complaints about blasting in the Antioch area, according to Fleming.

But he said after investigating, his crews found Vulcan had not caused any damage.

In fact, Fleming couldn’t name a time when Vulcan had ever caused damage or paid out claims for damage.

“If you’re also the company going out there and checking for damage, isn’t that a conflict of interest?” Autler asked.

“Listen, I don’t expect anyone necessarily to listen to my opinion,” Fleming said. “That’s why I would say call the state fire marshal if they have an issue they’re not sure of.”

That’s exactly what some neighbors did.

The state investigated two complaints in 2013 and 2014. In both cases, inspectors found no grounds to issue a violation. In fact, the Tennessee Department of Commerce and Insurance has no record of ever issuing Vulcan a violation, according to spokesman Kevin Walters.

But can blasting cause damage over the course of 10, even 20 years?

Experts said not quite.

A federal study conducted by the U.S. Bureau of Mines Research found wood-framed homes were more likely to be affected by environmental causes than long-term blasting if the blasting did not exceed a certain level.

Mark Buchanan, a structural engineer in Nashville, said he agrees with the study’s findings.

Buchanan said the cracks found in the homes on Melvin Jones Drive could have easily been caused by soil erosion or fluctuating moisture.

He also described what blasting damage does look like.

“When it goes wrong, it goes bad wrong,” Buchanan said. “The drywall’s off the wall, there’s nail pops, it breaks the glass out. It’s violent.”

But McDonald said he still wants answers about the blasting, why his house is falling apart, and whom to hold responsible.

“It’s no way to live,” McDonald said. “It’s no way to live at all.”

In 2009, a group of residents in Blount County filed a lawsuit against Vulcan. One of several claims accused a local quarry of causing damage to homes.

The case was eventually dismissed.

Vulcan said neighbors can request to be contacted before blasting starts by calling 615-832-7503 to be added to the list.

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