Callanan, having decided boulder won’t budge, gets back to blasting

After determining that a large boulder sitting roughly 200 feet above Main Street in East Kingston is unlikely to move, Callanan Industries has resumed blasting operations. According to Ulster Town Supervisor James Quigley III, the company applied around 300 tons of pressure on the boulder in an attempt to move it. When the 20-by-40-foot rock didn’t budge, it was deemed less of a safety risk than previously believed.

A rockslide on July 25 was followed by a minor slide two weeks later 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 a cement mine opening created in the late 1800s, and weren’t related to blasting. Callanan suspended all blasting at noon on Aug. 12 as it looked into 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.

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On Sept. 9, Quigley declared a state of emergency, which allowed Callanan to begin construction of a wall 300 feet long without having to go through standard municipal approval procedures. With the wall in place, Callanan began investigating the possible removal of the boulder, with Vibra-Tech Engineers, a Hazelton, Pa.-based company with offices in Newburgh that specializes in vibration services and structural dynamic engineering, monitoring the site.

“They had their contractors in and they put the 300 tons-plus pressure using pneumatic lifting devices on three sides of the stone and it didn’t move,” Quigley said. “So that indicates the stone is pretty solid from a movement point of view. It appears that the safety precautions that were put in place have been completed and the rock is not moving, so they went back to work.”

In August, Quigley said because of the long history of mining in the Callanan quarry, the mountain was unstable. 

“The inside of that mountain is a warren of large empty rooms from when they mined the cement out of there, and those rooms are collapsing,” he said. “[People are] going to debate the cause of the collapse, but regardless of the debate, Mother Nature is going to reclaim that mountain and those rooms and those caves are going to collapse. It’s just a matter of when a matter of when, and I think there’s evidence on the mountain face facing East Kingston, that these rock slides have been occurring and these cave collapses have been occurring for a very long time.”

On Tuesday, he said that assessment has not changed, but that Callanan’s resumption of blasting operations are happening more than a half-mile away.

“Callanan is blasting almost up behind Walmart [on Frank Sottile Boulevard], which is close to 3,000 feet away. And based upon the scientific evidence I’ve received, that blasting and that activity should not materially impact what’s going on inside the mountain.”

Callanan Industries did not respond to an attempt to seek comment.

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