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Failed inspection shuts down village sand pit

SARANAC LAKE - A failed inspection has prompted the village of Saranac Lake to temporarily shut down mining operations at the sand pit near Will Rogers Drive.

Last week, an inspector from the U.S. Department of Labor's Mine Safety and Health Administration was in Saranac Lake for a random inspection at Trudeau Sand & Gravel. When the inspector, Ron Ward, asked to see Trudeau's screening equipment, he was told it was being rented to the village Department of Public Works.

According to Ward, Trudeau is required to contact his administration whenever equipment is leased or taken off site.

Village Manager Marty Murphy said Ward was unaware of the village's operation and that all mining sites are required by federal law to have an identification number.

Ward gave the village's sand pit an ID number, effectively authorizing him to perform an inspection of the pit.

Murphy said the inspection uncovered several violations that forced the village to cease work.

"The required berm around the rim of the sand pit had fallen," he said. "We generally reestablish those earthen berms at the end of the day. But the inspector said they're required to be in place at all times."

In addition to the berm violation, Ward also found that village DPW workers hadn't received MSHA safety training and were not authorized to be performing the work.

Fortunately, Murphy believes the village has enough sand stocked up at the village garage off Van Buren Street that it won't be a problem this winter. He estimates the village has about 3,000 cubic feet.

In the mean time, the village is looking into the possibility of training its employees to mine sand at the Will Rogers site. But that may not happen until after this winter, Murphy said.

"We're trying to get them trained," he said. "But there's nothing coming up in the immediate future."

If the village can't get its employees trained, it may have to contract with another municipality who has a MSHA trained worker.

When asked how this oversight occurred, Murphy admitted that the village has been mining sand in the same manner for years.

"I'm not sure anyone knew this agency existed," he said. "No one was aware that we were violating anything."

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