'Save our Hills': Residents in Oak Hills neighborhood take a stand against mining operation

Photo provided by staff.
Wednesday, August 13, 2014 - 7:03pm

Hundreds of people in Watson are waiting for an answer that could change the fate of their neighborhood. A strip mining operation could be in their backyards, but they aren't letting this happen without a fight.

It was pretty quiet, but if this project gets approved, it could mean no more peace and quiet for the more than 200 residents.

Jim Norred has lived here in the Oak Hills neighborhood for nearly 20 years.

"The peace and quiet, and the friendly neighbors," Norred said.

However, if a gravel pit is put by his neighborhood, Norred said it will not be so peaceful anymore.

"I can't believe they would do this," Norred said.

A couple of residents got notices from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers in July which said a strip mining operation would be just outside of their neighborhood.

"So everybody started hustling. We tried to get things going. We requested a 30-day extension," Norred explained.

After that, residents were then given a 10-day extension to voice their concerns about it before a decision is made. So they started a petition and got more than 700 signatures because the dust and the noise, they don't want it.

"We have people who just survived lung cancer. One person only has one lung. We've got another one, a young girl who just got over stage four immune problem and is recovering after a bone marrow transplant. They can't handle any addition stress on their system," Norred said.

Southern Aggregates is the company heading this project. It has already created gravel pits in the northern part of Watson, right in Lynn Dupre's backyard.

"There were trucks going back and forth from out that way to back that way," Dupre said. "The front-end loader with it's little 'beep, beep, beep' was back there. So we heard that at 3:30 this morning."

Dupre said this has been going on for two years, and she does not want to see this happen to the people in Oak Hills.

"I'm trying to help the people of Oak Hills understand what they're going to be up against because this is horrible," Dupre said.

"If the permit is issued, the next step we'd have to see about getting an attorney," Norred stated.

The residents of Oak Hills are still trying to get a public hearing set up.

Army Corps of Engineers officials said it is up to them and DEQ to grant the permit, but they are taking the concerns of the residents very seriously. It could take up to four months for a final decision.

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