JACKSBORO, Tenn. (WATE) — Students at Campbell County High School were released early on Monday to allow a nearby quarry to use explosives.
A voicemail sent out by Campbell County Schools said the closure at 12:30 p.m. was “a precautionary measure to protect students from any potential harmful situation caused by blasting.” The voicemail says construction company Potter South East is conducting the blast.
The Campbell County Sheriff’s Office said it blocked off surrounding areas, including Hunters Branch Road, leading up to the blast zone.
Residents near the blast zone said they were upset about the quarry work.
E.G. Keen, one of those residents, said his house was closer than the high school, yet he felt that county officials only worried about the safety of students and drivers on Highway 63, and not the numerous residents living even closer.
“There’s no concern about the public other than the traffic on the highway. There’s no concern about the homeowners that’s within 1,000 feet of where this is all taking place,” Keen said.
Keen said he used to have a career in mining, so he knew a lot about the kind of work being done at the quarry.
Keen and a few other residents first learned about the LaFollette quarry blasting a couple of weeks ago, when Sauls Seismic LLC sent a letter about a pre-blast survey.
The letter stated that designated residents and/or nearby businesses around the site would be offered a free pre-blast survey of their property.
An authorized representative of the company would inspect the house or buildings for pre-existing conditions and take photos and videos, with the purpose of identifying those conditions before blasting started.
Keen said that he didn’t want to ask for a survey because he was trying to stop the operation altogether.
“What I did was, (Potter South East) were saying it was just a borrow pit, which it’s not. It is a mine. And I contacted the Mine Safety and Health Administration,” Keen said.
He believed the company was blasting a quarry to use the rocks from the blast as materials instead of buying them.
Keen said while today’s blast wasn’t bad, future blasts could lead to damage.
“Well the blast today wasn’t so bad. I’m just concerned that later on they may shoot heavier and do some structural damage to our homes because we’re so close,” Keen said.
Keen said he knows first hand what kind of damage a big explosion can cause to a home. His home was structurally damaged many years ago after a fireworks warehouse exploded.
Keen said that blast more than 20 years ago was further from his home than the quarry blast zone is now.
6 On Your Side tried to contact Potter South East about the quarry work, but was not able to reach the company.
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