A state of emergency in East Kingston was declared earlier this week by Ulster Town Supervisor James Quigley III to allow for the immediate erection of a 10-foot high concrete wall along Main Street in the hamlet to prevent residences from being impacted by a rockslide.
A rockslide on July 25 was followed by a minor slide on Aug. 9 at Callanan’s East Kingston quarry site. At the time, Quigley said that the pair of rockslides appeared to have been caused by the collapse of an historic cement mine opening created in the late 1800s, and were not related to blasting. Callanan suspended all blasting at noon on Aug. 12 to ensure the safety and stability of the slopes on the east face of the mountain overlooking Main Street.
One day after the smaller slide, concrete barriers were placed on the west side of Main Street as a precautionary measure to prevent rocks from falling onto or crossing the road while studies were being done by geotechnical consultants hired by Callanan. The barriers were later augmented by metal dumpsters filled with stone as a further blockade against falling rock. The East Kingston quarry is one of several across the state being mined by Albany-based Callanan Industries, which trades in paving materials, concrete and other aggregates.
On Monday, Sept. 9, Quigley declared a state of emergency, in effect allowing Callanan to begin construction of a wall up to 300 feet long without having to go through standard municipal approval procedures. The supervisor on Tuesday said it became necessary to cut the red tape and allow the wall to be built quickly because further movement has been detected from high up on the mountain, atop of which sits a 20-by-40-foot boulder which may be unstable.
“This wall is designed to prevent the rock from going into the street or going across the street into the buildings,” Quigley said. “The wall that they are building has to be built to permanent standards to withstand the forces of Mother Nature and the size and velocity of the rocks coming off that mountain. Reports that were coming in Friday [Sept. 6] showed continued conditions degrading on the top of the mountain and the interior of the mountain from what I have been told was a series of minetubes.”
Vibra-Tech Engineers, a Hazelton, Pa.-based company with offices in Newburgh that specializes in vibration services and structural dynamic engineering, has been monitoring the site.
Big rock, big problem
Callanan has plans to remove the boulder, Quigley said, but because of surrounding instability at the top of the mountain, the wall has to be constructed first in case the project doesn’t go according to plan.
The issuance of a state of emergency in East Kingston, which will remain in effect for 30 days, allowed for the separate issuance of Local Emergency Order No. 1 of 2019, which suspends the enforcement of town code related to the construction of the fence, which is expected to be between 200-300 feet long. Quigley said Callanan initially planned to build an 1,100-foot wall, but there were concerns that going through the approval process would take months. On Tuesday, Quigley stressed that time is of the essence — earlier this week he learned that there are four levels of mine rooms held up by pillars within the mountain that are collapsing and that there are “degrading conditions at the site.”
“As the top of the mountain subsides, the face of the mountain has more pressure on it from behind it,” Quigley said. “As the material builds up and pushes it out, like a wedge … So there are more cracks and the cracks are getting larger along the rear of the rocks that constitute the face of the mountain that can be seen from Main Street in East Kingston.”