FLEETWOOD, Ala. (WIAT) – Neighbors in the small Fleetwood community have been feeling a little rattled for over a year now. Residents like Jim Darnell say they weren’t concerned when they learned a mine would be blasting close to their homes. Darnell has lived in the area for over a decade, and mining just comes with the territory.
However, the blasting started to become a real problem when neighbors say they began to notice structural damage to their homes and property. Darnell says the blasting close to his home happens at least twice a week. Darnell believes the blasting has caused numerous problems in his household including cracks that have allowed water to flood into his basement safe room. He showed us several spots in his concrete floor and walls where there are now cracks. Darnell claims that one blast damaged his stove by bending a vent, and he was forced to replace it.
Darnell is among six residents who filed a lawsuit in the spring against Black Warrior Minerals Inc, which operates the Fleetwood Seaboard Mine. Residents say they have grown tired of the regular blasting that causes their homes to shake. However, they believe the shaking is causing structural damage in addition to being an annoyance, and they want something done. Darnell believes the company could use different measures to lessen the impact of the blasts. He says he has tried calling Black Warrior Minerals and the Alabama Surface Mining Commission with little luck.
Black Warrior Minerals Inc. did not respond to our requests for comment. However, officials with the Alabama Surface Mining Commission confirmed that they had received and followed up on four complaints at the mine from January 2012 to May 2012. Surface mining officials say no violations were written at any of those incidents. They explain that the company does a pre-blast survey of the properties near the blast site. The company takes note of any defects at the properties before any blasting begins. The pre-blast survey can be used to compare to current complaints. Surface mining officials say the companies must also keep detailed reports of each blast that can be reviewed to see if any violations occurred.
However, residents say, with each blast they see more cracks that just keep getting wider.