Signs for and against a proposed quarry in White Lake. Photos by Megan Plete Postol
More than 1,000 letters to date, community members, consultants speak out at public hearing
By Megan Plete Postol
As the application for a granite quarry in the Oneida County town of Forestport goes through its review process, public outcry against the project continues to gain momentum.
The application for the project, which was prepared by Strategic Mining Solutions, L.L.C. and submitted by Tom Sunderlin, is being reviewed by the Adirondack Park Agency (APA) and the New York State Department of Conservation (DEC). The project falls under the jurisdiction of both agencies because it is within the boundary of the Adirondack Park.
This project has received significant public attention. More than 1,000 letters have been submitted to the APA.
A hearing was conducted online Sept. 2 for interested parties to make public comment regarding the proposed White Lake granite quarry project.
Both the APA and DEC were represented at the hearing. The hearing was presided over by Molly McBride, an administrative law judge with the DEC.
Findings were presented from the independent agency hired by the Adirondack White Lake Association to evaluate Sunderlin’s permit applicant. LA Group Landscape Architecture and Engineering Director of Environmental Services Kevin Franke said his agency determined that Sunderlin’s application did not provide sufficient evidence to guarantee that White Lake and the surrounding community would not be adversely affected by the creation and operation of a granite quarry.
“The permit application lacks adequate technical information needed for the department to make their required findings or determinations,” Franke said. “On the subject of hydrogeology the applicant claims that mining will occur above ground water but site-specific depth to ground water is not provided.”
Franke explained that in the permit application plan, it states that mining will cease a minimum of ten feet above the water table. In a July 2021 response from the applicant to the APA, it disclosed that the ground water elevation used in the application was approximated by using the elevation of the White Lake outlet.
“The application must contain data on actual ground water elevations at the mine,” Franke said. “On a very similar 2000 mining application for the same location the department specifically requested depth of ground water and other critical hydrogeological information that was never provided.”
Other areas in the application that lacked sufficient information, according to the LA Group, were stormwater runoff and drainage, noise levels, and crushing operations.
Multiple property owners delivered public comment, all in opposition to the project. Reasons cited were health concerns from mining dust, safeguarding of natural resources, traffic dangers, noise, and water quality.
In 2000, the applicant’s previous permit application was deemed incomplete. White Lake resident Ralph Cossa pointed out some of the specifics for the determination, including the absence of specific groundwater information, groundwater flow direction, and a water table map.
“Have the APA and DEC standards and commitment to protecting the environment been lowered since 2000? If so, why? If not, the application must be rejected,” said Cossa.
Debra Dempsey felt that the project violates the mission of the DEC.
“The White Lake granite quarry project would not uphold the protection of the natural resources of the state, including forests,” Dempsey said. “The impact to wildlife associated with the project and the clearing of 25 acres has not been evaluated or addressed.”
She also touched on the issue of noise pollution and concern for the wetlands surrounding the proposed quarry site.
Joseph Foley, of State Route 28, attended an invitation-only event at the quarry site. Sunderlin stated at that event that there would only be two trucks per day, Foley said. The application allows for up to 20 per day. Sunderlin also said at that meeting there would be no rock crushing, but the permit application allows for it.
“I’m not sure why the applicant is stating one thing but the permit allows something totally different,” Foley said. “This proposed project will endanger surrounding properties, and will create water, air, and noise pollution. The area is a pristine part of the Adirondack park system and should be protected for generations to come. Approval of this application goes against all of the DEC’s obligations to protect the environment.”
Renee Lee is a year-round resident of the White Lake community and a registered nurse. She grew up near a quarry. Her own mother suffers respiratory ailments from living in close proximity to the mining dust residue. She said that experience is why she is so concerned about what health effects the proposed quarry would have on the surrounding land owners.
Retired DOT engineer Charles Reidmen spoke about traffic and safety concerns. The flaw of this location is the poor sight distance on the Southern side of the intersection of Stone Quarry Road and State Route 28, he said.
DEC stated on the public record that New York State Sen. Joseph Griffo (R, 47th District) submitted comment just prior to the hearing.
The applicant responds
Permit applicant Sunderlin attended the hearing but did not present public comment. He denied an interview but provided the following statement:
“There are specific laws and regulations regarding the mining permit application process. This process is playing out to the letter of the law. We believe our mining plan is sound based on its technical merits as its reviewed by the credentialed, experienced professionals of both the APA and DEC. We are hopeful that this application will be based on those technical merits not on the organized campaign of misinformation that has been spread by the opposition.”
He gave no indication of plans to revise or withdraw his application.
“The Adirondack Park Agency continues its parallel review process of the Red Rock Quarry project (P2021-0075 ) and will continue to work closely with the Department of Environmental Conservation as they work through their separate review process. We anticipate staff will bring a recommendation to the Agency Board to consider at a future Agency meeting,” said APA Public Information Officer Keith McKeever.
The application is available for public review and comment until Sept. 17, according to DEC Spokeswoman Andrea Pedrick.
“DEC subjects all applications for an environmental permit to a rigorous review that helps ensure public health and the environment are protected,” Pedrick said. “DEC will conduct a comprehensive review of all comments provided both in writing and at the Sept. 2 public hearing prior to making a decision on the application.”
To submit comment, email Comment.WhiteLakeGranite2021@dec.ny.gov or mail letters to ATTN: White Lake Granite Quarry, Zachary Goodale, Environmental Analyst, NYS DEC Room 1404, 207 Genesee Street, Utica NY 13501.