COLLINS - Town residents were given a chance to voice their concerns over the proposed amendment to the Gernatt Mining Permit submitted to the town board and the Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) by Gernatt Gravel Asphalt Products.
Gernatt Gravel wants to modify their current mining permit that is dated Dec. 16, 1974. The purpose of the public hearing during the regular board meeting was to hear residents concerns. These concerns will be passed along to the DEC who will make the decision on the modifications.
"We actually called this public hearing ... to hear concerns that the public has ... so that we can pass these on to make sure the DEC and their deliberation process on their SEQR before they issue a ruling," Supervisor Merle Harvey said.
OBSERVER Photo by Samantha McDonnell
Town Attorney James Musacchio read Gernatt Gravel’s plans to residents regarding the gravel pit along Vail Road and the requested modifications asked for in the special use permit.
The permit says Gernatt Gravel wants to mine down 50 feet, which will come within 8 to 10 feet of the closest spring box, Collins Town Lawyer James Musacchio said. The north side has never been mined and the bulk of the modifications is regarding the north side, Musacchio said. To raise the floor level of the mine 50 feet, effectively bringing the bottom of the level of the pits above any of the ground water sources. The floor elevation would be in the North Vail Road parcel. The elevation would be 1,090 feet and would include a clear separation between the mine floor and the ground water source, the modification plans read.
Gernatt Gravel also wants to modify the setback. The current setback is 250 feet from the center line but Gernatt wants to modify it down to 25 feet with a 25-foot wide berm, so it would be 50 feet from the center line essentially. One of the adjacent sides to the mine is an unoccupied alfalfa field.
Residents were mainly concerned about dust, traffic and clean water drilling. The proposed contract wants to dig within 10 feet of the clean ground well water and expand 12.25 acres from the existing special use permit.
Many residents that live near the Vail Road pit are voicing concerns. Resident Elizabeth Reid lives on the north side of Vail Road.
"I don't understand why it's OK for a commercial mining business to keep using, updating (and) changing a permit issued to a farmer over 30 years ago without the immediate neighbors being notified," she said.
She built her house on her husband's grandfather's farm mentioning that the proposed mining site is 125 feet outside her back door. Reid has lived there before Gernatt has been mining along Vail Road. Reid's biggest fear is the water spring.
Reid asked, in her letter, who would guarantee clean water if they tamper with the springs. She has tried to build wells but has not been successful as of late. Another issue she has will be kids and teenagers partying in the gravel pits. Reid used to frequent the pits she said as a kid.
"The kids partying in the pits has always been an issue at the existing one (pit)," she said.
Reid, along with other residents, praised Gernatt Gravel for doing so much for the community but mentioned looking out for neighbors is important.
"Gernatt have been very good to our town, our church, our school and our village but you have to be a good neighbor too," Reid said.
Residents Charlie Grudzien and Ed Grudzien were both concerned with the contact that would come within 10 feet of the water table. Ed asked if Gernatt is going to supply water to all the residents if they tamper with and dirty the water supply.
Tom Robinson also read a letter he wrote to the DEC. In the letter he talked about problems with landowners and that the mining will cause more highway like traffic along Vail Road. He experiences nearly a truck a minute passing by his house either coming from or going to the mining pit. He questioned if the road could handle all this heavy equipment. In his letter, he said he felt he and his neighbors "were being bullied into submission."
"The trouble with mining operations, it destroys natural setting," Robinson read from his letter.
"From the bottom of our hearts we wish that you would walk away from the North Side of Vail Road expansion and mine somewhere else," Robinson said.
Any resident can send comments to the DEC. They have to be in writing and the public comment period will end Oct. 4. Comments can be sent to: New York DEC Attn: Douglas Borschel, 270 Michigan Ave., Buffalo, N.Y., 14203.