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Guilderland Archives — The Altamont Enterprise, August 5, 2010

Could runoff from mine contaminate reservoir? Officials say no

By Anne Hayden

GUILDERLAND — Runoff from a gravel mine that has been operating for over 20 years could contaminate the Watervliet Reservoir, according to the town’s former water plant manager, although state and municipal officials say this isn’t so.

The mine, owned and operated by William Larned & Sons, Co., on Stitt Road, is located just several hundred feet from the reservoir, Guilderland’s primary source of drinking water.

Thaddeus Ausfeld, an environmental activist who has retired from his long-time job as Guilderland’s water treatment plan manager, is concerned that digging below the level of the surface water could cause contamination to the reservoir.

Donald Larned, a representative of the mining company, has declined to comment on the matter for over a month.

Larned & Sons has mined on Stitt Road in several different locations over the past two decades. James Besha Sr., president of the Albany Engineering Corporation, which oversees the reservoir for Watervliet, said the state’s Department of Environmental Conservation requires permits for gravel mines, and that his company had reviewed the permits and not found any problems related to the reservoir.

“There may have been some issues 20 or 30 years ago, before permits were required, but I have not heard any complaints since then,” Besha said.

Rick Georgeson, a spokesperson for the DEC, said New York State has 2,200 active sand and gravel mines, and nearly 5,000 mines have received permits since 1975, when they became required by law. The permits, according to Georgeson, provide regulations for mine operations, specifying how mining will take place, and a reclamation plan, detailing the process for returning the land to productive use.

“The mining company has to put up a bond, to prove financial security for restoring the land,” Georgeson said. There are also specific guidelines when a mine is close to a body of water, to prevent contamination, said Georgeson.

“Because of the close proximity of the Watervliet Reservoir, the Larned mine site was designed and permitted so that surface water runoff will run back onto the mine site, and not reach the reservoir,” Georgeson said. There is also a forested buffer between the mine site and the reservoir, he said.

A previously dug gravel mine, on the opposite side of Stitt Road from the active mine, has already been reclaimed, and, Georgeson said, a representative from the DEC inspects the active mine at least once a year.

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