Hamptonville residents express concerns over drilling

Ryan Crater addresses a packed room during Monday’s Yadkin Commissioners meeting about concerns of drilling on 500-acre Hamptonville property.

It was a packed house Monday for the meeting of the Yadkin County Board of Commissioners. Around 25 Hamptonville area residents attended with several speaking out during the public comment portion of the meeting regarding concerns about unusual drilling on a 500-acre property in the area.

NC Policy Watch reported on the “mysterious drilling” in December of last year saying that “the company president behind the project is refusing to disclose what he’s looking for and why.”

Jack Mitchell, president of Synergy Materials, told Policy Watch that the company is doing “due diligence to determine the highest and best use of the land.” He would not elaborate on what those uses might be.

County Manager Lisa Hughes said the property is owned by the Sherill family and has been for a sale for a “very long time.” Synergy Materials has paid for a new plot or layout of some of the parcels of land, she said.

“That’s all the facts anybody knows,” Hughes added.

Chairman Kevin Austin, seeing the crowd on Monday, prompted the board to amend its usual rules for public comments allowing for more than two speakers per subject matter.

Speaking first was Ryan Crater, whose property borders the potential mining site.

Crater said there was a sense of urgency to “act on this” and issue a county-wide ordinance against drilling.

“The time to act is now,” Crater said. “This is going to effect more than just property owners. It’s going to effect the Hamptonville lake, that’s a whole different environmental issue.”

The property is near West Yadkin Elementary School and speaker Luke Storie, PE teacher at West Yadkin, spoke to concerns regarding the school and students.

“Some of things that are very concerning about a potential mining operation, fracking operation, refinery plant, processing plant, whatever it may be, would be blasting. What would blasting from the mining operation, or just the ground tremors, do to our buildings at West Yadkin? I’m sure all of you are aware, they’re not the newest buildings,” said Storie.

“Also, what would this do to the social and emotional well-being of our students?” Storie asked. “Just today we had a fire drill at West Yadkin Elementary School. Just to see some of the kids’ faces when that goes off, just in the hallway, it’s not something I’d want to see everyday.”

Storie also brought up potential air quality issues related to mining sites.

Ron Duncan, another Hamptonville resident, spoke about potential water quality issues that could occur due to mining in the area. Duncan said he was not a Yadkin native but was proud to call the area home, due in large part to the pristine natural beauty of the area.

“The creek behind the house had salamanders in it. Salamanders can only live in good water. I don’t need a water quality test, the salamanders were the water quality test. Crawdads will live in anything,” Duncan said.

“What will happen to the people who have lived here all their life, they’ve always got the water from the ground and it was always good,” he said.

A theme of residents’ love of Yadkin County continued to emerge as several other speakers came forward and spoke to concerns of how a potential mining site could affect the environmental resources in the area.

Retired West Yadkin Elementary School Teacher Cynthia Prevette shared her love the county and spoke about her adult daughter and her daughter’s friend who recently moved back to the county after years living in other areas

“They learned something on their journey, Yadkin County is a wonderful place to live and raise a family,” Prevette said.

“Remember why we all love Yadkin County,” she added.

At the close of Monday’s meeting Commissioners thanked the speakers for their input. Chairman Austin echoed the sentiments of the speakers on the love of the county and made a promise as well.

“We do love Yadkin County. We’re here for the same reasons you all here. We are elected to preserve Yadkin County; to protect it, to protect the people of Yadkin County, to protect the lifestyle, to protect everything that is good about Yadkin County,” Austin said. “This is my vow to you all that that’s what we will do as a board. That’s what we’re elected to do and that’s what we will do.”