Quail Creek is a quiet community of about 4,000 residents. Only the trains that pass by disrupt the peace for a brief moment.

But this small, developing neighborhood in Sahuarita a town of 35,000 residents is threatened by a potentially hazardous project: a hot mix asphalt plant less than a mile away.

“There are a lot of people that this is going to affect,” said two-and-a-half year resident Mark Zimmerman. “Quality of life here is so good and that’s all in jeopardy.”

Zimmerman helps lead the Concerned Citizens of Sahuarita (CCS), a group born from the opposition to the asphalt plant.

Vulcan Materials Company, headquartered in Alabama, submitted a conditional permit application in January of 2023. If approved, it would allow them to add the plant to its property now used as a gravel pit and storage facility.

They’re currently working on an air monitoring study to give to the town’s planning and zoning commission.

A lot of people think were crazy taking on a giant of a corporation, a $4 billion conglomerate, Zimmerman said, but he thinks their cause is worth it.

In Arizona alone, the company operates 18 asphalt plants, a portion of its 36 total facilities in the state.

Former Chicago Bears player Robin Earl also lives in Quail Creek. He can see the property from his backyard.

He said “theres probably four-and-a-half or five football fields” between his backyard and the pit.

The group is concerned about decreased home values, their groundwater and their health.

According to paperwork submitted by Vulcan, the underground portion of the pit will be 67 feet deep. CCS said it’s only about 70 feet from an aquifer that runs through Quail Creek, Saddlebrook and Tucson.

Vulcan also reserves the right to operate 24/7, estimating its truck traffic will increase from 30 to 225 vehicles every day.

CCS volunteer Carl Larsen said one of his main worries doesn’t lie with his community, but the employees of Vulcan should the permit be approved.

The entrance and exit to the property is intersected by Union Pacific Railroad tracks. According to Zimmerman, eight trains pass daily, but in a few years, it could be up to 30.

Larsen suspects the increase of both trains and Vulcan trucks (carrying flammable substances like propane) will also increase the chances for accidents that emergency services can’t easily access.

“We have a firehouse on our side of the tracks,” he explained. “Should there be a train blocking, what is that going to do with fire safety equipment coming in?”

KGUN asked Vulcan for a comment but the company said it’s too early in the process to properly address these concerns.

In a written response, a spokesperson said they have:

operated in Arizona and Pima County for decades. We are proud of the work our employees do to build and grow the communities where we operate We look forward to the next steps in working with the town of Sahuarita…

But Larsen isn’t convinced they’re safe.

Years ago, he lived in the Chicago suburb of Manhattan located about 30 miles from a Vulcan plant.

In 2006, a Kankakee County circuit court ordered the company to pay more than $2.3 million for environmental violations.

Theres going to be a smokestack thats going to be about ten feet off the ground over here,” Larsen said, pointing toward the pit. “On a hot day, all that pollution is just going to sit there.

And when the wind picks up, those emissions are headed straight into town.

If Vulcan is approved to operate the asphalt plant, one of the CCS volunteers estimates Quail Creek residents shouldn’t open their windows 20% of the time due to wind patterns. For those in central Sahuarita, it’s 80% of the time.

Sahuarita Town Manager Shane Dille said he and the council have been reading the thousands of emails sent in by concerned citizens.

Its something that this community is very engaged on and the outcome is not being taken lightly, he said.

Once planning and zoning have reviewed all documents and made its recommendation to the council, public hearings will follow, giving CCS a chance to voice concerns on a larger platform.