Wetlands disappear as Callanan expands its mine, residents allege

Most of the heavy industry that once lined the western side of the Hudson River in Ulster County has long disappeared, but one operation remains: the Callanan Industries mine, located on 350 acres in the Town of Ulster. Since 1983, Callanan has been mining on the limestone ridge that first saw work begin over a century ago. The company, which is a division of Oldcastle, the North American arm of Ireland-based multinational CRH plc, extracts limestone and shale, which is processed into crushed stone, asphalt, precast cement, and other aggregate rock products in facilities on the property.

So far, 95.5 acres have been quarried, but the mine is far from played out: in the application to renew its five-year permit (which expired on Oct. 31) with the state Department of Environmental Conservation, the company noted its plans to mine 169 additional acres over the next 50 years. Afterwards, the two large resulting holes, both 50 feet below grade, will be filled with water, according to the company’s reclamation plan.

Town of Ulster Supervisor Jim Quigley has said Callanan’s an asset: it’s a local source of crushed stone and asphalt, hires approximately 30 employees and leases land from Tilcon (seller of the adjacent property to AVR for the proposed mega-housing development in both the Town of Ulster and the City of Kingston). Callanan annually pays more than $50,000 in property taxes on its 30 parcels.

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However, some residents in the Town of Ulster are concerned about environmental damage. A handful of residents in East Kingston, which in past decades housed the workers for the mine and nearby brickyards, complain about noise and damage to their homes caused by the blasting. Several years ago, their well water starting turning black — a problem that is less of an issue now that a municipal water system has been installed (although the cost to hook up is not cheap — in the thousands of dollars, according to resident Josephine Reina, who paid to get connected).

Callanan’s dismantling of the ridge has also raised red flags with local environmentalists, who claim the mine is destroying valuable wetlands and isn’t getting the proper oversight from the DEC or the Army Corps of Engineers. Both groups would like to see the mine closed down — or at least be subject to a state environmental review, which would give the public a voice.

Exempt from SEQRA

While the mine would normally be subject to such a review, Callanan’s East Kingston mine has been exempt from an environmental review under the State Environmental Quality Review Act (SEQRA) because its operations predate the state and federal environmental laws, which were implemented in the 1970s. This grandfathering qualifies the mine as a Type II action by the DEC, which automatically exempts it from review when the permit is renewed. However, the DEC may request addition information prior to issuing the renewal, said Halina Duda, a mining specialist at the DEC’s Region 3 office.

There are 2 comments

  1. Nora Paul Budziak

    First of all I would like to thank the Kingston Times for bringing the wetlands scenario to light. We may not be in the City of Kingston but we do surround it on all sides so things that happen here can ultimately impact the city. The wetlands in question run from the City line all the way to Glenerie falls on the Saugerties line. They are connected and are endowed with amazing habitats. In 2009 I was fortunate to have participated in one of Hudsonia’s Biodiversity Mapping programs. That year our group mapped 3200 acres in the western part of the City of Kingston and the Town of Ulster. It was an amazing experience and we all learned many things. Having completed that area I decided to take on the Route 32 corridor which has a unique ‘Ridge’ and adjacent wetlands! The ‘Ridge is the first thing you see when you cross the Kingston Rhinecliff bridge on your way to the Catskills. This is the gateway to the Catskills and could be the prime stopping place for tourist but the main attraction is more than likely the Hudson valley Mall.

    During the months between 2009 and the present I researched the Route 32 corridor and what is presently happening there and the best uses of the area. In mapping an area you must look at all kinds of reports (Archaeology)and maps as well as special photos and even Google Earth (which can save a lot of walking) The geology of the ‘Ridge’ is primarily calcareous (lime stone which lends itself to the presence of many of the more rare species. There is one wetland on the ‘Ridge’ which was historically connected by a small stream and Hydric Soil (soil that retains water) Some of the local people and historians know the northern part of this wetland as Hutter Lake or Steneracka and is on maps back to the early 1800’s–It is also on all the wetland maps my group has examined and to our knowledge has never been formally declassified or deregulated .It is not listed as such on the DEC web site nor was there a public hearing to do this. We are very concerned about this area as even though Mr. Zeh says they mitigate the areas destroyed by mining replacing flora and fauna that is indigenous to a specific geology is next to impossible. Specific moss and fern do not grow just anywhere. I have read of the work that both Callanan and Tilcon have done and will say they have done excellent work however they were not replacing something as sensitive as this and for the most part improved on the areas destroyed by their mining. This ‘Ridge’ is connected geologically to the area in Rosendale and the Schawgunks .

    Callanan and Tilcon own 1000 acres in Ulster county. There are 130 areas being overseen by the DEC (Helena Duda) not all are actively mined or permitted at this time but many can produce the very same product that is now taken from the east Kingston Quarry and many of those areas are locally owned. I am sure if one really looked we could buy American even though it is our earth. The $50,000 quoted for taxes on the East Kingston Quarry is broken down into around $18,000 municipal tax and the rest goes to the Kingston City School District.

    In response to Ms Duda’s statement that Hutter lake is isolated I would ask folks to Google Earth and look for yourself. Both sections of KE-7 are subject to over site by the DEC and the Army Corp of Engineers according to multiple wetlands maps. It is a pity that companies like Tilcon/Callanan dodge SEQRA which gives them license to destroy so much. Does it make that big a difference in the bottom line? Do they hold “The People” in such low esteem that they take away their voice? This is not working with Folks! This blatantly ignoring the plight of the people especial those of East Kingston not to mention the Native American’s who’s history lies along that ‘Ridge’. There are ancient paths that run north and south along that Ridge. There are at least seven noted archaeological sites and one that has been documented by Ritchey who was the State Archaeologist many years ago. There are representatives of the Munsee people from Canada who have asked for recognition when these sites are studied.

    I guess I am hoping that somehow the parties involved in the making of ‘Two Lakes’ might consider the “People”, “We the People”.

    ‘LAW’
    Land, Air and Water
    A Coalition for the Protection of Natural Resources

    Nora Paul Budziak
    AEINora@AOL.com

  2. Josephine Reina

    I know that Callahan destroys wetlands. I lived in East Kingston and Kingston all my life. I ice skated on lakes and ponds where Callahan now exists. There were two lakes on Devils Lake Road that have been filled with sediment and drained. You can still travel toward Kingston on that road and see other wetlands still in existence. How could anyone believe that these wetlands did not extend into East Kingston?? And this is what is going to happen to Hutter Lake. It is NOT isolated. Nor were the Lakes that were destroyed by Callahan. Some were spring fed.

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