AU SABLE FORKS - Residents in the town of Jay expressed tentative approval of a proposal by one local quarry to put some noisy equipment to further use.
A public hearing held by the Adirondack Park Agency at the Jay town hall Aug. 23 gave local residents the chance to voice their opinion on expanded crushing and blasting operations at the two Jay quarries operated by Cold Spring Granite Company.
The company expressed interest last year in expanding its operation of the equipment in an effort to process the non-dimensional stone it considers waste material.
At a similar public meeting held by the town last October, many residents expressed concerns about the noise produced from testing of the operations.
Much of that attitude changed at the Aug. 23 meeting, however, where the company recieved praise for mitigating the noise.
As part of their application to the APA, Cold Spring now proposes the installation of 30-foot-high berm walls that will surround the crushing equipment on three sides and insulate the noise from much of the surrounding area.
Most residents who spoke at the meeting said that with the berm walls already under construction, much of their concerns were alleviated.
"It sounded like a 50-caliber machine gun outside my house," recalled Jeffrey Houston, who lives on Sheldrake Road. "I understand the economic advantages and I applaud the quarry for what they're doing. It sounds to me that Cold Spring Quarry has gone out of their way to deal with the problem."
Ed Zalenski owns property adjacent to one of the quarries.
"I am in no way worried about the project at all," he said.
Cold Spring enlisted engineer Scott Manchester to perform sound testing to estimate the noise pollution to the area. With the berm walls fully in place, he said, noise levels throughout the surrounding valley would not increase by noticeable levels.
Don Sheele, head of environmental engineering for Cold Spring Granite, said the Minnesota-based company had set a goal to put all the material they extracted from the ground to use instead of just the granite suitable for monuments and structures.
"In order to do that, they have to be able to use the byproduct from their quarry activity," he said.
The waste stone has previously been moved into large piles at the quarries, but Sheele said that by breaking and crushing it, it could be then put to use for roads and construction.
"It's a very valuable product for us," said Chesterfield highway superintendent Phil Pray.
Other local highway superintendents and contractors also cited the benefits of the project, which allows them to access material at far less cost because it does not have to be transported as far.
"We don't make any money off it," said Sheele. "Actually, we're giving the rock away in some cases."
Sixteen people are currently employed at the two Jay quarries, along with four salespeople based in Albany. If the expansion proposal is approved, Sheele said, it could mean adding a few more jobs within the next year.
Jay town supervisor Randy Douglas said the town is in support of the project for the jobs it will sustain and possibly create.
"I also live in AuSable Acres, and I know the sound they're talking about," he said, but added he's confident the berm walls will sufficiently lessen the sound.
Douglas said Cold Spring has been very willing to compromise, agreeing to limit their crushing operations to daytime hours in the spring and fall months.
"They're a community-minded company, and we're happy to have them here," Douglas said.
Still, others remained somewhat skeptical about what the actual effect of the noise will be, particularly on the property value of neighboring lands.
Chris Haley, who also owns land near the quarries, said crushing could be heard in nearby areas used for outdoor recreation and disturbs the peace and quiet that many residents and visitors enjoy in the region.
"It's a valuable commodity," Haley said. "Is it as valuable as the stone we're taking out of the ground?"
Written public comment on the projects will continue to be accepted by the APA for the next few weeks. Contact Environmental Program Specialist Thomas Saehrig at 891-4050 for more information.