A 1996 permit for the massive Akso-Nobel Salt Mine provides for a reduction in the mine's bond amount if it practices "backfilling," i.e., waste disposal. Proposals have been made to backfill 9,000 acres of salt mines with low-level nuclear waste, municipal solid waste, and sewage sludge. The company has received $18 million in grants from New York State to expand the mine and approximately $20 million in low-interest loans and tax and fee abatements, one-third of this funded by New York State. Permit language local stakeholders expected that would have prohibited waste disposal in the mine is missing.
The mine underlies three rural towns thirty miles south of Rochester, New York, alongside the Genessee River. A collapse of Akzo's nearby 6,000 acre Retsof Salt Mine in 1994 ruined large areas of land and homes throughout the Genesee River Valley towns of York, Geneseo, and Leicester in Livingston County. In addition to subsidence these areas experienced dewatering of overlying aquifers and the loss of water supplies, and contamination of ground and surface waters with brine. Following the collapse former DEC Commissioner Zagata ruled that salt mining was so much in the public interest as to justify expedited review of the larger 9,000 acre mine at Hampton Corners, which he ultimately approved.
The local concerned citizens organizations Regional Action Group for the Environmental (RAGE) and Protect A Clean Environment (PACE) believe salt production plays no role whatsover in the future of the mine. There is little demand for rock salt: the City of Rochester does not use rock salt on roads, and rock salt is infrequently used to treat icy road conditions elsewhere in the region. Their objections to the limited scope of review of the new mine was dismissed by Commissioner Zagata as "at best, rais[ing] potential uncertainties."
An environmental justice issue is presented by the discovery of at least eleven separate burial areas on the site containing human remains from Native American communities, some dating back 10,000 years. One-half of the membership of RAGE is Native American.
Additional salt mine storage projects are under way in Bath and Avoca, New York, where fresh water from Cohocton River is being injected into salt domes to create a cavity to store liquid propane, with the brine being discharged directly back into the river.