More truck trips and blasting allowed in Fulton County
By Gwendolyn Craig
Coeymans-based Carver Sand & Gravel is closer to expanding its 320-acre mining operation in Fulton County and changing the terms of its permit.
The Adirondack Park Agency (APA) on Thursday issued it a conditioned permit to increase its truck loading hours and blasting numbers, among other changes, in the town of Ephratah.
The agency, charged with overseeing public and private development in the 6-million-acre park, had delayed voting on the permit last month to address some town and local residents’ concerns. The mine still needs a state Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) permit. The DEC had delayed its issuance, APA staff said, until the APA board passed its permit.
The board voted unanimously authorizing the expansion with board member Arthur Lussi absent. He had expressed concerns over the early morning hours of the mine’s operations at last month’s meeting. Also at that meeting, questions were raised over a 2021 enforcement case with the APA. In a November 2021 settlement agreement, the APA found Carver had blasted more than twice a month without an amended permit in 2021, and in 2020 and 2021 had trucked outside the hours of the permit. Records show the APA fined the company $1,500.
At Thursday’s meeting, the APA approved the extension of the mining permit for another five years and allowed additional acreage to be used for vegetative buffers. It increased the mine’s allowable blasts from two to three per month, and up to 30 per year. The mine, located off state Route 29 and Route 10, will also alert residents prior to blasts.
It also approved two additional hours of trucking and maintenance. Hours for those operations, which have been 7 a.m. to 5 p.m., will expand to 6 a.m. to 6 p.m. The hours for mine extraction, crushing, screening and blasting have not changed and are not included in the changes.
The mine’s original permit allowed for up to 75 truck trips per day; it also allowed that for 10 days a year as many as 100 truck trips per day. Now, the mine will be allowed up to 200 trips per day, up to 100 daily trips on average annually.
Bart Haralson, an environmental program specialist with the APA, said Carver has had spikes in truck trips per day including one this year where more than 180 trips were made. The mine, however, has never reached an annual average of 75 truck trips per day, he said. The agency will receive annual reports from Carver to ensure it is meeting these stipulations.
Data shows truck trips have been increasing at Carver’s Fulton County operation however, and Haralson said mine representatives pointed to climate change mitigation projects. In the last 18 months, Haralson said, about 50 of the daily truck trips were for climate resiliency work. Carver provides boulders and materials for off-shore wind projects near Long Island, flood recovery projects across the state and New York State Canal Corps projects from Albany to Utica.
The Fulton County operation employs up to 20 seasonal workers with an on-site annual payroll of $1.2 million.
The APA received a dozen comments on the application, all concerned about the mine’s permit proposal. The town of Ephratah had concerns over mining activity, but APA staff said they addressed some of the concerns by separating trucking activities from blasting. Other concerns by the town, Haralson said, are out of APA’s jurisdiction, such as highway speed limits and the number of tons the mining operation may truck.
Benita Law-Diao, a board member, questioned why APA staff hadn’t provided studies about the impacts of the mining operation on wildlife. Staff said it wasn’t needed, pointing to the original permit APA board members passed in 2009. Staff also said the blasts are into the bedrock and not above in the air. The DEC has a maximum blast sound level of 133 decibels at nearby homes or businesses, staff said, which Carver must comply with in its operations.
Sarah Reynolds, associate counsel for the APA, said the new permit “is an example of the agency asserting more rather than less jurisdiction over the mines.” In 2009, for example, the agency had no limits on truck trips.
Mark Hall, a board member from the town of Fine, said residents in areas of the park’s rare mining areas are used to the noise. “It’s really nothing more than a rumble,” he said. Residents often think it’s either a mining blast, something happening at Fort Drum or a sonic boom, he said.