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.
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.