About 200 million years ago, much of western and central New York State was covered by a large inland sea. As water evaporated over time, this left a deep layer of natural salt that was gradually covered over. Native Americans made use of salt springs in the region and early white settlers expanded this practice so that by the end of the 19th century, mine shafts extended deep beneath the surface. The salt mines of western New York were created by water and continue to have an impact on local water supplies. In 1994, a massive collapse occurred at the Akzo Nobel Salt Mine. This caused underground water to flood the old mine tunnels. As a result, some local wells ran dry and formerly fresh water in the aquifer became very salty. Managing this disaster presents an ongoing challenge for residents of Livingston County communities.