December 5, 2021

C’ville adds allies in mine expansion fight

The Cortlandville Town Board continued its opposition to a proposed mine expansion, with new allies, after it filed letters Wednesday and sent to the state Department of Environmental Conservation showing the town and other municipalities’ concerns about the project.

The letters were signed by representatives of the town, the Cortland County Legislature, Cortland County Health Department and Cortland County Soil and Water Conservation District and sent in late January to the DEC.

The letters oppose the expansion of the Cortlandville Sand and Gravel mine off Route 13 in South Cortland near the Byrne Dairy yogurt plant and Lime Hollow Nature Center. They ask for an extension of the public notice period to 60 days from its current 30 days, set to expire Feb. 26, said town Supervisor Tom Williams.

The expansion would include expanding the mine by 9 acres and digging down 100 feet below the town’s water table, town documents show.

The opposition focuses around the potential exposure risks — including the use of hazardous chemicals by the mine presenting a risk to the water supply — that could come with the expansion.

“Is that the best place to do that?” asked Amanda Barber, the district manager of the Cortland County Soil and Water Conservation District, before the meeting. “(The aquifer) is the only reasonable source of water for our community.”

Williams previously said the proposed project was brought up years ago by Cortlandville Sand and Gravel, which owns the mine.

The DEC later declared itself lead agent, under the State Environmental Quality Review Act, to determine potential environmental effects from construction.

In January, the town received a letter from the DEC stating the project had no potential environmental effects.

Williams and other board members previously expressed concern about 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 the water were to become contaminated, it 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.

Chris Henry, the owner of Cortlandville Sand and Gravel, declined comment Wednesday.

Cortlandville recently gained the support of the Cortland Common Council and the county Legislature.

The Common Council voted Tuesday to allow Mayor Brian Tobin to work with Cortlandville in extending the public notice period.

The county Legislature voted Jan. 28 to send a letter with the county health department and the Soil and Water Conservation District expressing their concerns.

The Cortlandville Town Board voted in January to authorize Williams to work on a plan, including establishing a steering committee of town residents with environmental welfare and environmental legal backgrounds, to oppose the expansion.