The Lafarge Fox River Quarry has had a long and complicated history with South Elgin, Illinois.
When Fox River Stone was mining the rock, gravel and sand above ground, complaints to the village board about the dust coming off the site and truck traffic – long before the Stearns Road extension was built – were common, according to a series of Courier-News stories dating from 2001.
Then, when the above-ground deposits were depleted, Lafarge North America bought the quarry and began underground mining operations in 2007.
Some neighbors in the Sugar Ridge and Silver Glen subdivisions were surprised to discover the quarry wasn’t closing. Their Realtors had told them the quarry’s operations would end in a few years, neighbors said during village public hearings.
The last set of public hearings came in August 2013, when Lafarge asked the village to allow extended above-ground operations. Currently, the above-ground operations are limited to 6 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday through Friday, and 6 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Saturdays. The company had asked to increase hours to 5 a.m. to 10 p.m. Monday through Saturday. Then, the company dropped the request for extended Saturday hours, and said they only needed the hours through the end of the 2013 construction season.
The request was unanimously denied by both the planning and zoning commission and the village board. Jim Hansen, the village president who died later that year, said Lafarge hadn’t been good neighbors up to that point.
“Talking to [village] staff, they would rate your company poor [in] response for needs and questions that we have,” Hansen said in 2013.
Since then, however, changes have been made. South Elgin Village Manager Steve Super – who was community development director in 2013 – said he can’t remember complaints from neighbors since that time.
At the public hearings, neighbors mentioned four issues from the mine – dust, noise, blasting vibrations and spillover lighting from the mine.
Lafarge has made changes to address some of those issues, Super said.
“The dust and debris on the road has gotten a lot better,” on the Stearns side, Super said. Lafarge moved its truck scales and put in an asphalt road, allowing less debris to build up on trucks and more time for it to fall off before getting onto the public road. “I see the sweeper out there all of the time, and they moved some of the rock piles around, so the dust runs away from Sugar Ridge (subdivision),” Super said.
“There is still dust coming off the mine. You can’t pile up that much rock and not have dust,” Super added.
Lighting was adjusted to limit the amount of spillage onto neighboring property, and some operations were moved underground to limit the noise pollution.
What will likely never change is the blasting. Afternoon underground, another section of limestone is cleared by a controlled blast, plant manager Matt Tripp said.
It seems to him, Super said, that Lafarge heard the village in 2013.
“I think they have obviously tried to do more outreach and the management staff there now is a lot more responsive,” to village concerns, he said.
Lafarge has not come back with a request for extended above-ground hours, Super added. But during Saturday’s mine tour, Tripp said that limited above-ground hours slow the below-ground operations, too.