Quarry Update - Everything looks okay for now

This is probably the last update about the Quarry Project in Villemoustaussou (at least for now).

Even though I panicked last week when I received the email notification of the proposed quarry installation, this week has been full of research and helpful advice from friends.

Here’s the long summary of the quarry project.  I still haven’t read the whole technical report, but all in good time.

So here’s all the good news:

  1. The short notice (I received an email Friday night asking for a response by Monday) was for a consultation on the quarry’s effects on viticulture.  There is over one month to study the project and talk about it during an “enquete publique” that will start next week.
  2. This should be an installation of the least invasive type of quarry.  They can dig the big hole and draw stone, but that’s pretty much it.  There is no permission to dewater or treat the concrete on site.  My two greatest fears.
  3. The project has shrunk from its original size to avoid digging near the most important part of the Fresquel river’s flood zone.
  4. The increased road traffic through Villemoustaussou shouldn’t be too noticable since the current quarry’s traffic also drives through Villemoustaussou.  I didn’t even know this so, if it’s true, it means the road traffic is pretty negligible.
  5. The dust clouds should be extremely limited to the area directly around the quarry, and they are watering the roads so even that shouldn’t be significant.
  6. Noise pollution is neglible as I am more than a few kilometers uphill from the project.
  7. At the end of the quarry’s 12 year run, they will apparently turn it into a nice lake which should increase local property value and means more development/funding for Villemoustaussou
  8. The company will conduct a new field study to inventory and catalogue all plant and animal species in the 28 hectares affected to ensure that no protected animals or plants will be displaced or harmed by the project.

I still need to attend the local meetings and read the full file.  But it would seem that everything is actually okay and we can turn off the alarm bells for now.

The vineyard is safe. 🙂

This is another quick update on the quarry project in Villemoustaussou.

I’m trying to find the study about the project.  The DREAL office that conducted the preliminary studies is out of the office this week so I can’t get in touch with them until after the deadline for reading it.  There is a physical copy of the 300 page dossier in a box in the Chambre of Agriculture. which I can view up until tomorrow.  But I haven’t had a chance yet.

The Chamber of Agriculture assured me that if this were a risky operation, the DREAL would have said so.  So they insist that there are no worries.  We’re also in a preliminary consultation phase.  The actual enquete publique for the quarry project is from June 7 to July 7.  Currently, the ODG Cabardes is being sent this information just so we can give a viticultural assessment of the project.  So it’s actually a courtesy call and I do have a lot more time than I originally thought.  We only have a few days to contribute information about how the project may affect the Cabardes appellation, but we’ll have lots of time to talk about the project in June when everybody has a chance to learn about it.

The project is located much closer to Rivals, another Cabardes producer.  I haven’t gotten in touch with Rivals yet but other Cabardes producers alluded to the fact that they might actually be happy about the quarry.  Typically, after 12 years the quarry will be filled with water and turned into a pretty lake that can increase property value and also serve as a water reserve to irrigate nearby crops.  I don’t have any details about how the quarry will be used after the 12 years, but we’ll probably see more information soon.  The other producers concerned are the new owners of Domaine La Mijeanne.  The truck route looks like it goes right by them.  But I don’t know how much that affects the viticulture.  It’s more of a general environmental issue, and that’s not what we’re being consulted about.  A neighbor of mine notes that La Mijeanne, under its previous ownership, successfully fought the installation of a different type of project near their domaine on the grounds that there were environmental issues.  But that was a much more harmful project where materials were treated on site.

I’ve talked to a couple people familiar with quarry projects and they seem to think this current Villemoustaussou quarry project is a very safe installation.  It’s basically a gigantic hole where they’ll get sand and gravel.  The materials will be processed elsewhere (in Valmy) and those installations can have a much more significant impact on the environs.  The Villemoustaussou installation will not be like this. Apparently, there will be no dewatering or any kind of pumps.  All this to be confirmed, but sounds like good news so far.

Last Friday evening, I received an alarming email about the installation of a quarry several kilometers away from O’Vineyards.  The email said I had until Monday to respond.

Given the lack of detail and the strange time of delivery of the email, I panicked and posted on the blog.  Some of you have graciously offered help with researching this installation.
Iris from Domaine Lisson discovered an avis from the regional prefecture on the Direction Regionale de l’Environnement, de l’Amenagement et du Logement website.

The avis addresses environmental concerns for the surrounding area of Villemoustaussou and concludes that everything seems to be taken into account.  With a few further precautions, they say the project should be allowed to continue.

Environmental risks outlined in avis

The biggest issues are the usual impacts of quarries (?!), noise pollution for the direct neighborhood, traffic from the trucks and impact of that traffic on the countryside, to which we can add (due to the location of the project),

  • the risk of erosion due to the drainage of heavy rain waters or from the upper water table, because the project is located in the alluvial plain of the Fresquel, in a floodzone
  • the potential impact on biodiversity since the project is located in a classified environmental area

Excuse the poorly translated legalese.  This is the best I can do.

Mitigating Factors

The avis goes on to explain that most of this has been taken into account.

  • Taking into account the extreme proximity of the nearest households (40 meters from the project) and the proximity of the Agglomeration de Carcassonne (400 meters) the project will use merlons (pretty stone/dirt walls) to reduce the impact on neighbors, special trucking routes to reduce danger, and watered roads to avoid dust clouds.
  • A study of the mobility of the Fresquel river has moved us to reduce the size of the quarry installation; the current project does not infringe on the area that the Fresquel might move to.  Furthermore, the site will not need a water waste plan because the materials will not be processed on site but will instead be trucked to an already permitted site to be processed.
  • Despite the fact that all alluvial quarries in alluvial water tables have an impact on the draw and quality of the aquifer, this impact will be limited by the weak hydraulic gradient that exists and the absence of dewatering pumps
  • If the 2008 study of the local flora didn’t take into account the protected nature of the zone, the flora inventory executed between 2008 and 2010 is based on field inventories executed during favorable periods like Spring and Summer, which allows us to conclude that the study is globally adapted to the purpose of evaluating the project’s impact on biodiversity.  None the less, certain doubts persist after reading the dossier concerning the risk of destroying protected species that require an adaptation of the project to prevent impacting them.

The full French text, as above, is available on the official government site.

Other online friends have assured me that a project several kilometers away will be pretty much invisible from O’Vineyards.  They say similar projects in the environs of vineyards cause no noise pollution or dust clouds.

Should I be worried?

Having read the report, I see that there are houses less than 50 meters away from the site.  I imagine that the dust and noise aren’t a big deal or they would be clamoring.  However now that I’m researching concrete production and quarries, I’m getting worried about the water table!

The good news is that this is not a concrete processing plant or manufacture or whatever you call it.  They take the stone and materials here and drive them to Valmy where they are already allowed to process the stuff.  The bad news is that it can still cause fluctuations in the flow of the alluvial aquifer.

This whole project is a few kilometers downhill from me.  Does a change in the aquifer draw down there mean that the water table higher up will drain faster or slower?  Or will I be unaffected?

I don’t know enough about geology and rainfall to know how that affects the vineyard.  I’ll continue looking into it.  I guess I have like one day left to research.


I got an alarming email about a quarry project in the town where I make my wine.  It’s very short notice!  I have to respond by Monday and I don’t know anything about this project.

I got this email from the person at the Chamber of Agriculture who has been acting as a general manager for the Appellation Cabardes for the past couple of years.  Basically, it would seem that somebody is asking to create a quarry in the south of Villemoustaussou, the town where I make my wine.  It’s specifically a “carrieres de tout venant alluvionnaire” but I have no idea what that means.  A quarry where anybody can come and pick up alluvial deposits?  The details of the quarry project are 300 pages long and aren’t included in the email. Instead, there is a short summary of this proposed project and a map of its location attached to the email.

The project is on the opposite side of Villemoustaussou from my vineyard.  But I’m still concerned.  What does it mean for my vineyard?  What can I do?  Why do I only have three days to respond to this email?!  Why did they wait til Friday afternoon (after my lawyer clocks out for the weekend)?

quarry project in villemoustaussou languedoc

Here’s the email I received at 6:52 PM:

Bonsoir ,

L’INAO nous a transmis dans le courant de la semaine un dossier de projet de carrière(cf principales caractéristiques en pj)sur la commune de Villemoustaussou. Comme d’habitude il y urgence car il faut rendre une réponse écrite avant le lundi 6 juin donc pratiquement avant le vendredi 3 juin( L’ODG est organisme consultatif.)

Avec Robert Gianesini nous pensions organiser dans l’urgence une réunion lundi soir mais faute de salles disponibles, cela ne sera pas possible.

Je vous propose donc de prendre connaissance des 2 documents qui sont un résumé très condensé du projet qui comporte 5 rapports soit 300 pages et de transmettre à Robert et à moi-même votre avis par mail avant lundi 30/05 14H afin de rédiger un courrier officiel de l’ODG.

I’m so confused.  How will this affect the environment around my vineyard?  Will we all be consumed in a cloud of dust for twelve years?  Or will this have virtually no effect on my vines?  How will it affect Brau and Donjon who grow their grapes slightly closer to the affected area?

These are the two documents attached to the email:

What on earth am I supposed to do?  I don’t have the 300 page document from the INAO detailing the project.  I don’t know any of the consequences of this type of project.  I don’t know what I’m supposed to say.  I only hope that the winemakers more closely affected by this project will see this email before Monday and know better how to respond.

How to find us

Domaine O’Vineyards, located in the North Arrondissement of Carcassonne, is just minutes from the Carcassonne train station, the Medieval City, and the Carcassonne Airport.
GPS coordinates: 43.259622, 2.340387

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North Arrondissement of Carcassonne
885 Avenue de la Montagne Noire
11620 Villemoustaussou, France
Tel: +33(0) 630 189 910

  1. Best by GPS.
    Follow the signs to Mazamet/ Villemoustaussou using the D118. At the end of the last straight part of D118, you will come to a roundabout with the Dyneff gas station.
  2. Take the exit towards Pennautier. Continue 500m to a small roundabout and go straight over.
  3. Look out for the second road on your right, Avenue des Cévennes which curves up hill (about 1km) to Avenue de la Montagne Noire on the left.
  4. At the last juction, bear left. the road sign “Ave de la Montagne Noire” (confusing as it seems to show a right turn)
  5. After another 500m you will see our red brick color building in the middle of the vines.