FAYETTEVILLE – Residents of the Wedington Woods area who hope to block the expansion of a red dirt mine near their west Fayetteville home are awaiting a decision from the state government on the project.
The Arkansas Department of Energy and Environment is considering a permit amendment to allow Eco-Friendly Materials to expand a mining operation. The company operates an area of around 80 acres, according to ministry information, and is looking to add another 80 acres.
The state closed its 30-day comment period on the expansion permit in June and has not announced a decision, according to Donnally Davis, chief communications officer.
“The department is currently reviewing comments that were submitted during the public comment period,” Davis wrote in an email. “Once the review is complete, the department will issue a final clearance decision.”
Wedington Woods-area resident Teri David-Beupre said none of the neighbors had heard anything from the state about the status of the permit.
“We’re just waiting for them to tell us what their plans are,” she said. “The ball is in the department’s court.”
Residents of the Wedington Woods area, which is adjacent to the area being considered for expansion, raised their concerns with the Washington County Quorum Court at its June 16 meeting. Neighbors complained they weren’t given enough advance notice of the proposed expansion and the mining operation should be required to go through the county’s conditional use permit process and comply with laws and regulations state and federal, they said.
Lisa Davison told the justices of the peace at the June meeting that she had lived in her Wedington Woods home for 38 years. She said the proposed expansion would bring mining within meters of her home. Davison said she suffers from post-traumatic stress disorder, which is made worse by the constant noise from trucks and heavy equipment, as well as the blasting carried out at the quarry site. She said the dirt mine has driven animals away from the neighborhood and left her home filled with red dust that she is unable to clean or filter.
Jake Newcomb, an attorney representing one of the neighbors, argued that the expansion of mining operations ruled out any argument that the use was ‘preceded’ by existing before a county ordinance zoning unincorporated areas. does not come into force.
Newcomb also pointed to an Arkansas Environmental Quality Division inspection report that listed several mining deficiencies. A copy of the report listed unauthorized water outfalls on the site that allowed stormwater to bypass a sedimentation pond on the property. The report also indicated that there were three other disturbed areas on the property that were not part of the permit.
The berms of the sedimentation pond are covered with trees and other vegetation that have reduced the capacity of the pond by several feet and allow stormwater to bypass the authorized outlet, the report said. The report also noted several instances where water sampling or inspections were not documented or did not take place.
The state inspection report on Operation Eco-Friendly Materials lists James Earl Lindsey as responsible for the operation. Lindsey owns several parcels of property in the area and had entered into a contract with Washington County in 2012, which was renewed in 2016, to extract red earth for use by the county. The county obtained the original permit for the operation and in 2020 the county transferred the state permit for the operation to Eco-Friendly Materials.
Eco-Friendly Materials filed a response to the inspection report and list of deficiencies in June, with photos showing the corrective actions it took on site and explaining that the information listed as missing was simply not filled out or were not in the correct place in the company’s records.
Mining in the county dates back to at least 2005, according to state permit and contract information between the county and Lindsey for the four mining parcels.
Brian Lester, county attorney, said in a July 27 letter that the mining pit “existed before the Washington County Quorum Court passed Order 2006-66, which created zoning in areas unincorporated county”. Lester said the county has taken the position that uses that existed before the planning ordinance was passed are “grandfathered” and are not required to apply for conditional use permits because new uses that do not comply with the are.