Mine hearing creates rocky situation in townadmin
A plan to mine valuable stone from the hills of Nassau divided about 125 people Tuesday at an eagerly anticipated hearing.
Troy Sand and Gravel applied to the town and the state Department of Environmental Conservation in 2003 to drill on 79 acres of a hilltop parcel southeast of Pikes Pond for graywacke, a hard rock that is optimal for building roadways.
The West Sand Lake company completed a draft environmental impact study (DEIS) for the plan.
On Tuesday, DEC accepted comments on the project for the first time in St. Mary’s Church.
Part of the crowd said the proposed rock quarry was an enterprise that would bring no harm. But others called the company’s environmental review inadequate and said extracting the rock would generate noise, air and water problems.
Barbara Nuffer, who introduced herself as an air toxicologist, challenged the DEIS’s conclusion that the mine would not impact air quality. Dust from graywacke, combined with diesel engine exhaust, could add harmful particles to the air, she said.
“We are very concerned about our health,” Nuffer said. “Residents living in close proximity to the site include the elderly, children and people with respiratory and cardiovascular disease, and will be at increased risk of impact from this form of air pollution.”
The Averill Park woman detailed alleged violations committed by Troy Sand and Gravel at its West Sand Lake facility. She asked if DEC was prepared to employ a full-time environmental monitor to inspect new mining operations by the company.
But another speaker who said he lived only 50 feet from the West Sand Lake mine said Troy Sand and Gravel acted professionally.
The average rock quarry in the state is 130 acres, said Brian Milliman, a geologist hired by Troy Sand and Gravel. Including roads, the Nassau quarry would use a total of 89 acres of a 214-acre site, he said.
“To me, that’s not large scale,” said Robert Green of Route 66. He supported the project because he said it would be located in a vacant area. “I have no problem with this mine.”
But area resident Candace Eustace said she opposed the mine because the company’s environmental study failed to address the potential negative impacts the mine would have on historic properties, cultural venues and artisans. “We see it as an environmental and social detriment to the town,” she said.
Clark, the DEC official, said Tuesday’s comments would be used to evaluate the project. He announced an extension to the public comment period until Aug. 21. Residents can send written comments to the DEC office in Schenectady. An additional public hearing could be held, Clark said.
The Town Board will discuss a pending local law Thursday that would prohibit all hard rock mining, including what’s planned at the Troy Sand and Gravel site, Supervisor Ray Seney said.
A moratorium on hard rock mining in Nassau is slated to conclude at the end of July, Seney said. Some town officials hope to pass the local law and block the graywacke mine.
The town’s leadership had asked the DEC to delay Tuesday’s hearing so they could study the more than 1,000-page DEIS in detail, but DEC opposed a postponement.