Bellwood Quarry and Environmentalism
The history of environmentalism and industrialization go hand in hand. The burning of fossil fuels during the production of industrial products also produced harmful pollutants into the air, water, and land. While some saw industrialization as progress, others became concerned over the potential effects that industrialization would have on the environment. Early environmentalists like Henry David Thoreau and John Muir called for people to get back to nature. The environmental movement grew through the progressive era. Progressive era environmentalists pushed for the conservation of land. Yosemite Park was set aside in 1892, and by the 1920s President Woodrow Wilson created the National Park Service under the Department of the Interior.
The environmental movement as it is thought of today really began to gain momentum following World War II, and culminated in the 1960s and 1970s. This movement can be characterized as more reactive rather than being proactive. Environmental disasters and issues put the movement into the nation’s forethought. One such issue came from an influential book written in the 1960s. In 1962 Racheal Carson wrote the book Silent Spring, and immediately the book raised a call for action. The book chronicled the use of a controversial insecticide being used throughout the United States called DDT. The book questioned the logic behind releasing chemicals in the environment, Further, the book highlighted some of the many side effects of DDT. The book brought to light the facts that DDT not only was causing the decline in bird populations due to the pesticides thinning of eggs, but that it was also carcinogenic.
Other environmental disasters helped to solidify the environmental movement in the United States. Hydrogen bomb testing on the island of Bikini Atoll, oil spills off the coast of California, and the Great Lake Erie catching on fire due to the pollutants in the water put environmentalism on the fast track of political movements in the United States. Some of the results that came from the environmental push of the 1960s and 70s have become ingrained into modern society. The creation of the Environmental Protection Agency in 1970, The Endangered Species Act of 1973, The Clean Water Acts of 1966 and 1972, and The Clean Air Acts of 1963 and 1970 brought regulatory power, and standardized testing over industrial production.
The Clean Air Acts were responsible for the standardization of testing for pollutants in the air. Emissions testing on cars was a way that citizens of the United States were influenced by The Clean Air Acts. Industries were subject to the testing of The Clean Air Acts in a variety of ways. A test that was common for quarries was one designed to test the levels of opacity. Opacity, simply put, measures the amount of particulates in the air, and is represented in a percentage of the amount of light the particulates in the air allow to show through. Rock quarries, not being used for prison labor, used blasting with explosives as a way to free the granite from the quarry walls. The explosives would release a plume of dust and particulates that would provide the opacity reading. To combat particulate dust plumes, quarries are required to have a water suppression system during blasting, crushing, or extracting stone.
Since the 1950s Bellwood Quarry was in the hands of private businesses. It was first owned by Hitchcock Company in the 50s. By the 1960s CW Mathis owned the quarry, and by the 90s Vulcan Materials owned the property until the City of Atlanta reclaimed it for the Beltline project in 2006. During the time it was run by private ownership the quarry maintained acceptable levels of opacity readings. Not all quarries have fared so well. As recently as 2014, a quarry in Rhode Island was caught in violations of the Clean Air Act and fined over $80,000.