October 23, 2021

Cortlandville to fight mine expansion

The Cortlandville Town Board voted Wednesday to authorize Supervisor Tom Williams to work on a plan to oppose a proposed expansion of the Cortlandville Sand and Gravel mine because concerns have been raised over risk to the aquifer.

The vote came during a special meeting regarding the expansion of the mine off Route 13 in South Cortland near Byrne Dairy and Lime Hollow Nature Center, which would include expanding the mine 9 acres and digging down 100 feet below the town’s water table, according to town documents.

The authorization will allow Williams to:

  • Have town officials identify budgetary costs associated with opposing the project.
  • Establish a steering committee of town residents with environmental welfare and environmental legal backgrounds.
  • Create a plan for the town’s response to the proposal.

Williams said the proposed project was brought up several years ago by Cortlandville Sand and Gravel, which owns the mine. The state Department of Environmental Conservation declared itself lead agent under the State Environmental Quality Review Act to determine potential environmental effects from construction.

The town received a letter Monday from the DEC stating the project had no potential environmental effects.

Williams and other members of the board, expressed concern over the project because the quarry would be less than 1,000 feet from a town well and work could lead to pollutants getting into the water supply, a sole-source aquifer supplying Cortlandville — including McGraw — and Cortland.

“If a pollutant enters the water at the site, whether it’s petroleum or antifreeze, it’s a matter of days until it’s potentially in our well site,” Williams said, and perhaps just a few months before it gets into the city of Cortland’s water supply, which is downstream from Cortlandville’s well.

That could affect nearly 27,000 people, U.S. Census data show, or 56% of Cortland County’s residents, plus people who live elsewhere, but work and do business in the affected area.

“Mining is not a renewable product, however, nothing can be built without it,” according to a statement from Cortlandville Sand and Gravel. “The very expansions Cortlandville professes to work toward can not happen without our facility. All the material utilized to build the industrial park and Byrne Dairy, the super Walmart, Lowe’s, the new Gutchess Park fields, tractor supply [sic] and the solar farms currently being built throughout the town came from our location.”

The permit would create several jobs, the company added.

Board member Douglas Withey, a former city of Cortland water superintendent, said he helped start the Cortland Water Festival as a way to educate residents of the town and county about the importance of the aquifer and the need to protect it.

“If we screw this up, there’s no place to go for water,” Withey said.