Clear sky
Clear sky
24.8 °F
December 06, 2016
River Reporter Facebook pageTRR TwitterRSS Search

Historic mining debris in Wurtsboro; tailings force closure of state land

By Fritz Mayer
December 5, 2012

Sullivan County residents may be forgiven if they didn’t know there was once a substantial mining operation in Wurtsboro. After all, it has not been in operation since 1920. But back in the day, the mine was reportedly a busy place.

According to the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC), major mining began in the 1830s, “though the small-scale extraction of lead began much earlier,” during the 1600s.

According to at least one website the early settlers knew that the local Indians obtained lead from someplace near Wurtsboro, but the Indians were not willing to divulge the location of the place.

Three men ultimately learned the location of the mine, but didn’t know who owned the land, so they kept the location secret for 20 years. Ultimately one of the men, Moses Stanton, talked about the location in his sleep, and his son, Daniel, a blacksmith, overheard him and was able to profit from this knowledge in 1836. (This is recounted in the 1875 edition of “The History of Sullivan County,” by James Quinlan.)

This is the same area where the tailings are located. According to the DEC, although the tailings are located on the surface of the ground, they came from mine shafts, which still exist in the area. Now some 92 years after the mining has ended, the tailings, which are residual materials left over from the mining process, remain and, because of the lead, may present a danger to the public.

The DEC is in the process of developing a unit management plan for the Wurtsboro Ridge State Forest, and through that process the agency discovered the presence of the tailings, and conducted a preliminary investigation into the matter. They found there are four separate piles of tailings that together constitute an area of about two acres.

Because of the discovery, DEC is prohibiting public use of the area, “by establishing a restricted area and posting signage at the locations in question.”

DEC will investigate further and come up with a proposed remedial action plan, which will then be presented to the public. The DEC press release said, “The investigation is planned to begin in 2013, contingent upon the availability of funds.” The release further said that access roads may need to be improved and possibly new sections created.

From: New York State Department of Environmental Conservation
Division of Lands and Forests
Division of Environmental Remediation
in consultation with
New York State Department of Health

DEC SITE # 353013

It is the policy of the New York State Department ofEnvironmental Conservation (DEC) to manage state lands for
multiple uses to serve the People ofNew York State. A Unit Management Plan (UMP) is the first step in carrying
out that policy. In the course of developing the UMP for the Wurtsboro Ridge State Forest in the Town of
Mamakating, Sullivan County, the New York State Department ofEnvironmental Conservation (DEC) learned of
the presence of contamination associated with an historic lead mine on the property.

Major mining began in the 1830s and continued until approximately 1920, though small-scale extraction of lead
reportedly occurred much earlier (1600s). As a result ofthese historic mining operations, four distinct surface
deposits ofmine tailings remain on the property. Three ofthese are located near the top of the ridge and the fourth is
located at the base of the ridge along the Delaware and Hudson (D&H) Canal, where a county-owned linear park
runs alongthe former towpath. Together these piles comprise approximately 2 acres. In addition, soil
particles have eroded from the lower tailings pile and have accumulated as a sediment deposit (i,e., ~and bar) in the
D&H Canal.

Due to the presence ofthese tailings piles, DEC conducted apotential contaminated site investigation of the historic
mine areas in association withdevelopment ofthe property's UMP. Limited sampling data obtained to date indicate
that lead levels in the tailings piles, surface water in the vicinity of the tailings piles, and the sediment deposit in the
D&H Canal near.the lower tailings pile, are contaminated with elevated levels of lead.. These findings indicate that
precautions must be taken to prevent public contact with this contamination until a detailed site investigation and
subsequent remediation can be performed. These precautions include the following:

• In accordance with Environmental Conservation Law (ECL), Section 03-0301, DEC will prohibit public use
of the areas affected by historic mining operations that include exposed mine tailings and surface waters
emanating from the mine shafts by establishing Restricted Areas and posting signage at the locations shown
on maps of the area.

• DEC, in conjunction with the NYSDepartment of Health (DOH), is informing the public, including user
groups of the State Forest and other stakeholders, ofthe presence ofthe Restricted Areas and health
precautions that should be taken when using the unrestricted portions ofthe property.

• No one should enter the posted Restricted Areas, including children and pets.

• Users of the unrestricted portions ofthe property should not drink, and not filter and drink any surface water
they encounter in the vicinity of the mined areas.

• Users of the unrestricted portions of the property should make sure to wash their hands and the hands of
children thoroughly with uncontaminated water before eating, drinking or smoking during or after a visit to
this property. In addition, shoeslboots and pets should be thoroughly cleaned prior to bringing them indoors.

• DEC has advised Sullivan County of the need for restricting public access to a small affected area in and
adjacent to the D&H Canal, along the D&H Canal Linear Park and will work with the County to post similar warning signs as noted above.

High levels of lead in the environment can accumulate in wildlife. Because of this, meat, organs and bones from deer
and other game taken in the Wurtsboro Ridge State Forest area could contain elevated lead levels. Since much of
lead accumulates in bones, NYSDOH recommends removing the bones from meat of deer and other game taken in
the Wurtsboro Ridge State Forest area before cooking.

Additionally, small lead fragments can be present in game
harvested with lead bullets or shot. Some bullets shatter into small pieces that can be too small to detect by sight,
feel, or when chewing. Remove all identifiable bullets, slugs, shot, lead fragments and affected meat (including
feathers, fur, debris, etc.) from game when preparing it. You may also want to consider using non-lead alternatives
to hunt game.

Reducing exposure to lead is important because lead can cause health problems when it builds up in the body,
especially for babies and young children. Lead poisoning can slow a child's physical growth and mental
development, as well as cause other effects on the nervous system and other organs. Proper preparation methods,
good sanitary practices and using non-lead alternatives can all help to reduce exposure to lead from game.

More Information Concerning Lead Exposure From Fish and Game
• For more information on lead in shot and bullets and best practices when handling or processing animals
visit the NYSDOH website

• Also, for general information on eating fish caught in the waters ofNew York State please visit the NYSDOH website at: advisories/

• For questions about potential health effects and how to reduce your lead exposures, call NYSDOH at 518402-
7800 (toll free at 1-800-458-1158);. or email


DEC will conduct further investigations to determine the extent of contamination for all areas. Test results will be
used to formulate a remediation plan. Once the Proposed Remedial Action Plan (pRAP) is developed for the site, it
will be presented to the public by the Division of Environmental Remediation. The investigation is planned to begin in 2013, contingent upon the availability of funds. Existing access roads will need to be improved and possibly new
portions constructed, to facilitate access to perform the investigation and subsequent remediation work.

The draft UMP is expected to be publicly available in 2013. The UMP will be presented, and public comment accepted, at a future public meeting conducted by the Division of Lands and Forests.

Project documents are available at the following location(s) to help the public stay informed. Mamakating Library
Director: Greg Wirszyla, 156-158 Sullivan Street, Wurtsboro, NY
Phone: (845) 888-8004 hup:/hnamakatinlrlibrary. org

NYSDEC Region 3 Office
21 South Putt Comers Road
New Paltz, NY 12561
Phone: (845) 256-3154
(Please call for an appointment)

Site-related questions should be directed as follows:

NOV 2012
Site Investigation Questions
Janet Brown, P.E.

21 South Putt Comers Rd.
New Paltz, NY 12561
(845) 256-3826

Site-Related Health Questions
Tony Perretta
NYS Department of Health
Empire State Plaza, Coming Tower
Room 1787
Albany, NY 12237
(518) 402-7880

Jeffrey Wiegert
21 South Putt Comers Rd.
New Paltz, NY 12561
(845) 256-3084

We encourage you to share this fact sheet with neighbors and tenants, and/or post this fact sheet in a
prominent area of your building for others to see.