Fairfield County is steeped in history and populated by people proud of their heritage. Home to the longest running clock in America, colonial buildings, pines, ponds and pastures, Fairfield has seen growth and change over centuries. Something that has not changed, however, is what the town is made of: granite.
South Carolina has historically been one of the nation's top producers of granite and that is due in large part to Fairfield County. Granite deposits in Fairfield County led to the early development of quarrying. South Carolina’s State Stone, Winnsboro blue granite, was quarried for many years in Fairfield County and was used in the 1908 construction of the South Carolina Statehouse and for some of our country’s greatest landmarks such as New York City’s Flatiron Building and the old Charleston Post Office.
This year, through reviewing Luck Stone’s proposal to DHEC for a 100-year permit to mine granite and gneiss at its 416.8-acre site, I’ve come up to Fairfield County a good bit. I’ve gotten to know the community and the folks who make up the fabric of the community. I’ve learned Fairfield County’s greatest resource is its residents.
This is a town that looks out for one another. What struck me is that as people have been telling me about what concerns them about the quarry, they’ve also told me their concerns for their neighbors. Upstream folks are worried about downstream folks, nearby owners are worried for adjacent owners. That’s what communities and good neighbors do.
Right now, Fairfield County is concerned about aspects of Luck Stone’s proposed quarry. Residents who love their homes and surrounding environment are worried about the quarry. They are pondering whether any benefits of industrial-scale mining are worth the environmental impacts. They are concerned the quarry will cause well water loss, damaged homes from blasting, dust, and traffic problems for themselves and one another. Hundreds of people have spoken or written to DHEC, which is accepting comments on the project through August 20th, 2021.
While necessary, mining by its very nature is a dirty business and its impacts can be harmful to the natural and human environment. Mining and quarrying involve disturbing the terrestrial and marine environment with short—and long—term negative impacts. We need to strengthen mining laws in South Carolina to ensure projects don’t harm our environment. Until that is done, however, we have to demand accountability.
We’re calling on Luck Stone to work with the surrounding community to resolve their concerns and ensure this project has the least possible impact on the environment. Considering the scope and duration of this project, it shouldn’t only be discussed here and now, before approval. The best way for Luck Stone to be a neighbor to this community is to commit to listening to the community’s concerns and addressing them on an ongoing basis. Luck should be transparent and commit to sharing its water and dust monitoring results with the community. Luck should commit to hold annual meetings on an ongoing basis with a citizen panel board to listen to and address the community’s concerns.
Good neighbors are accommodating and willing to adjust when their neighbor may feel disturbed or uncomfortable. Good neighbors commit to transparency. Good neighbors are considerate of their neighbor’s property. Luck to be a good neighbor for Fairfield County.
Lauren Megill Milton is a staff attorney for the South Carolina Environmental Law Project.