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Apr 12, 2016 1:53 PMPublication: The Southampton Press

Closing Of Sand Land's Solid Waste Processing Predicted To Affect Local Landscapers

Sand Land can no longer process solid waste. ALISHA STEINDECKER
Apr 13, 2016 12:25 PM

Landscapers preparing for the busy summer season are scrambling to find alternative places to dispose of yard debris, and also to buy high-quality mulch and topsoil, since a state court pulled the plug on Sand Land’s solid waste-processing operation in Noyac last month.

The 50-acre sand-mining operation, owned by Wainscott Sand & Gravel, can no longer be used to process “trees, brush, stumps, leaves and other clearing debris into topsoil or mulch,” according to the decision. The facility also is no longer permitted to store, sell or deliver mulch, topsoil and wood chips.

While concerned residents and environmentalists celebrate the court ruling—the site is atop an aquifer that supplies water to much of Southampton and East Hampton towns, and environmentalists say the mulching operation can pollute groundwater—some landscapers say their businesses could be in jeopardy. Town-owned waste processing facilities in Southampton and East Hampton are limited in what they can handle, and they say the elimination of a major competitor is forcing up prices at the few other private processing facilities on the South Fork.

Meanwhile, some worry about another potential result: a rapid increase in illegal dumping of yard waste, which can worsen nitrogen pollution in other areas.

No Place To Go

Southampton Town’s transfer stations do not sell high-quality mulch and compost, and they do not accept commercial yard waste—only grass and brush hauled in by residents that is less than 3 inches in diameter. East Hampton Town’s facilities to the east will accept yard waste from commercial operations, and vend both mulch and screened compost, but the distance is considered a hardship for some businesses.

“There is no place to take large stumps, so this is the perfect facility—it is in the middle of the eastern portion of the town,” said Noyac resident Bill Clair, who owns an excavation business, while at the Sand Land facility on Friday. “It is the only place in the eastern portion of the town. So where’s the stuff going to go now?”

According to John Tintle, the owner of Wainscott Sand & Gravel, there are more than 600 customers who use Sand Land on a regular basis, both to purchase mulch and compost, and to drop off yard debris for disposal. “This is a critical time of year for the landscape and construction industry,” he said. “It will be a period of adjustment, not only for our operation [but for] the communities that rely on it.”

Referring to the number of customers who routinely use his facility, he added, “I think the town will become aware of the volumes.”

Sand Land was scheduled to stop accepting and processing solid waste on Monday and had been handing out fliers to its customers informing them of the change. However, Town Attorney James Burke said on Monday that it appeared that Sand Land was still operating as usual, and was in the process of figuring out how to handle the situation.

An employee of Sand Land said Tuesday that the facility is not accepting any yard debris and is turning away trucks that are arriving to dispose of it, unaware of the court ruling.

But Mr. Tintle said later Tuesday afternoon that while his facility is no longer accepting brush, it is still processing the material that is already on site. “We will probably be able to process everything on site in a month’s time, as far as grinding the remaining brush,” he said.

He also noted that he is the main buyer of the town’s unfinished compost, which is manufactured at its transfer facilities in North Sea, Hampton Bays and Westhampton. Those facilities accept yard waste from residents and use it to create a lower-quality compost.

“If I am no longer able to process the unfinished compost that the town sells, I won’t be purchasing the town’s product,” Mr. Tintle said.

A Perfect Place?

Mr. Tintle would not provide totals of either the amount of debris processed by the facility or the amount of mulch sold to clients prior to the court order. Observers of the court fight have said the facility processed hundreds of thousands of cubic yards of yard debris a year.

For comparison’s sake, a cubic yard of raw yard waste weighs an estimated 350 pounds, so a little less than 6 cubic yards would equal a ton. A single cubic yard of processed mulch or compost weighs much more—about 1,400 pounds.

Likewise, Mr. Tintle would not comment on the specific prices at Sand Land, either for accepting debris or for products like compost and mulch, although he said he has worked diligently to keep the prices low.

Mr. Clair, who was a Sand Land client, said it costs about $20 to $25 per cubic yard to dispose of brush or stumps at Sand Land, once they are trucked in.

Nevertheless, Town Supervisor Jay Schneiderman said the bottom line is that the court ruled that the use of the mine as a processing facility is illegal, upholding an earlier ruling by the town’s Zoning Board of Appeals.

“That site was very convenient for them [landscapers], but they didn’t have permission from the town to operate there,” he said of Wainscott Sand & Gravel. “That is what the ZBA determined—that is what the high court determined. As much as there may be a viable business there and a need, it is not permitted in that location.”

He said he is not worried about the town’s facilities becoming overwhelmed, because the town does not accept waste from commercial entities. He acknowledged, however, that private companies will likely raise their prices because they must travel farther to dispose of their waste and pick up compost and mulch.

“Only a resident can bring leaves and small brush there,” Mr. Clair said of the Southampton Town’s three facilities. “We are going to have to go west with it—so all it’s going to do is raise prices.”

He added, “There has to be a place for this to go on, and what a more perfect place than a sand pit?”

A Major Effect

Don Mahoney Jr., president of Southampton-based Mahoney Associates Inc., a landscaping and snow removal company, echoed that sentiment. He too said the closing of Sand Land’s waste operation will have a larger effect on the landscape industry than the town realizes.

“The cost of doing business is going to go up, so that trickle-down effect will increase our clients’ costs, which I’m sure they are not going to be happy about,” Mr. Mahoney said.

Other recycling facilities on the East End include Bistrian, which has three separate sites in East Hampton Town, as well as Crown Recycling Facility in Riverhead and Speonk Earth Recycling in Speonk. But Mr. Mahoney noted that two local firms that accept debris, which he declined to name, had already informed him that they were raising their prices because they can—they have a monopoly in the market now.

Another landscaper, David Zavala, who lives in Southampton and works for himself, said the town’s prices for compost and mulch are twice as much as Sand Land’s. According to the town’s website, a commercial business can buy unscreened compost for $2 per cubic yard. Although mulch is not always available, it is available for free to town residents who haul it themselves. For those who don’t, it can be delivered to sites within the town for $11.50 per cubic yard, and sites outside the town for $14 per cubic yard.

Mr. Mahoney said he would not consider buying the town’s product, because it is unscreened, uncertified and therefore not useful. He said he could not compare the town’s prices for mulch and compost to Sand Land’s prices, because it is like “comparing apples to oranges,” as Sand Land’s product is valuable and, essentially, the town’s is not.

Although inconvenient because of the distance, East Hampton Town’s facilities could be another option, Mr. Zavala said. Mulch there is sold for $15 per yard and screened compost for $25 per ton. Commercial entities are permitted to dispose of brush, leaves, wood chips, recyclables and more at the facilities in East Hampton.

Mr. Mahoney said he would not send his employees to East Hampton to drop off debris. “I can’t afford to send trucks to East Hampton in July to dump debris—I would have to hire four more guys and buy trucks. They would just be sitting in traffic all day,” he said.

More Dumping?

The decision also could create another problem, Mr. Mahoney said: “You are going to see a massive increase in illegal dumping—I’d go to Vegas on it,” he said, adding that it will be on the town’s shoulders to clean up the waste. “You will have guys backing down dark dead-ends and dumping as quick as they can.”

Southampton Town Superintendent of Highways Alex Gregor said his department has received several calls asking where the material should be sent. “It is just going to encourage more illegal dumping. That is a problem already, and the problem is going to get worse,” he agreed.

Robert DeLuca, president of the Group for the East End, said dumping does not have nearly as big an effect on the environment as Sand Land’s operations do. He noted that in addition to the illegality of the dumping at Sand Land, there is a lot of evidence that proves vegetative waste processing contaminates groundwater.

“This site is far more likely to result in long-term contamination directly into one of our most vulnerable and important sources of drinking water than isolated instances of illegal dumping of unprocessed yard and landscaping waste,” he said. “If there is a need to better manage the volume of vegetative waste, let’s work on that issue. But that work is not advanced by ignoring ongoing violations of law and responsible environmental management.”

Marilyn Kirkbright, president of the Southampton Trails Preservation Society, said the society already finds large amounts of organic yard waste on the trails system. “I do think that it could happen,” she said of illegal dumping, adding, “but the Sand Land closing is really good for our water table.” She noted that she was speaking on behalf of herself only, as the society had not yet discussed the issue.

Ms. Kirkbright said that the town should consider making it “cost-effective for people to dump their stuff at the dump, as opposed to these expensive fees.”

Town To Adapt

Mr. Schneiderman said he would explore the idea of having one of the town’s transfer stations eventually accept commercial waste. “All the brush is coming from residential properties. It is just being brought in by professional landscapers,” he noted.

However, Southampton Town is limited to having only 10,000 yards of material at each of its transfer stations at a time, which would make it difficult to accept commercial waste. “One of the problems we have had is we produce a compost product that is not high quality, and it is hard to get rid of—people don’t want it,” he acknowledged. “Unless we can move it out of our site, we will end up with 10,000 yards of material on our site, and then we can’t take anything in.”

Mr. Schneiderman said he will look into alternatives, especially improving the quality of the compost produced at the town facilities. He will explore buying a screener, he said, as that is the difference “between good compost and our compost.”

Mr. Tintle said he has not accepted the unanimous Appellate Division’s decision and that Sand Land will appeal.

“I never expected this outcome,” he said. “I figured this matter was settled in February 2014 when Judge [W. Gerard] Asher made his decision affirming the building inspector’s original decision.”

The town’s building inspector, Michael Benincasa, had initially granted Sand Land a certificate of occupancy to process solid waste, a decision the Zoning Board of Appeals challenged, but that was upheld in a lower court, before the more recent decision in the Appellate Division of State Supreme Court, which ruled with the ZBA.

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Nobody wants to live next to a compost processing facility. The stench is horrible! Beware North Sea. Jay has you in his sights!
By Toma Noku (616), Southampton on Apr 12, 16 3:07 PM
How about the Town start encouraging development in Eastport like Suffolk County had proposed years ago, with expanded access to Sunrise Highway? It is not an ideal location, but a good way to make use of areas that are already mining and composting.
By Mouthampton (439), Southampton on Apr 12, 16 3:08 PM
Bistrians in east hampton they have what Tintle had.
By lawnman (21), easthampton on Apr 12, 16 3:34 PM
Why didn't the town figure out a solution to the problem they have created before shutting down the Sand Lands?
By Rich Morey (378), East Hampton on Apr 12, 16 5:20 PM
Follow the money starting with Mr. Rubin on behalf of his golf course and luxury housing lots !!!!!!
By Colt (37), Wainscott on Apr 12, 16 5:45 PM
1 member liked this comment
not to mention Mr. Phair who owns the bobby van restaurant chain. the locals probably do not visit his overpriced places but those who do should boycott
By xtiego (698), bridgehampton on Apr 12, 16 6:50 PM
Keep taking them to court till you get your decision, all it takes is money. Move near a dump, don't complain. WHINE WHINE WHINE.
By knitter (1941), Southampton on Apr 12, 16 6:51 PM
1 member liked this comment
Whats more important.... to have clean drinking water for decades to come or sell mulch and take stumps in so people dont have to drive a little further away. As they say "ALL GOOD THINGS MUST COME TO AN END"
By letskeepitreal (15), sagharbor on Apr 12, 16 6:56 PM
The town didn't create the problem. The insane amount of landscape debris created by wealthy homeowners who want to have award winning yards and gardens created the problem.

Granted, Sand Land was a very convenient operation for local landscape businesses and a tremendous money maker for Mr. Tintle. Keep in mind, lead water pipes were also very convenient and made the manufacturers enormous profits as well.

Bottom line is people are going to pay more for landscaping. A secondary ...more
By Arnold Timer (327), Sag Harbor on Apr 12, 16 7:24 PM
1 member liked this comment
Award winning gardens in the Hamptons? Really? All I ever see are endless miles of sod, privet and a few hydrangeas. Natural screens of bushes and trees are bulldozed down and sprinkler systems are put in for sod. A privet hedge is erected and some Endless Summer hydrangeas (which have replaced Nikko Blue as the Hamptons' official shrub) for color and that's it. If the Hamptons ever became a separate country, its flag would be a hydrangea on a background of emerald green sod in front of a hunter ...more
By btdt (449), water mill on Apr 18, 16 4:30 PM
2 members liked this comment
Point well taken. They ARE award winning in the owner's eyes however.
By Arnold Timer (327), Sag Harbor on Apr 18, 16 9:56 PM
So the solution to clean groundwater is to dump all of this at different facilities in Speonk in the pine barrens?? Isn't that an aquifer everyone wanted to protect too? Kinda feel like the clean water argument defeats itself. This is about money and no one wanting this in their backyard, but it's got to happen somewhere!
By bayfront (4), SOUTHAMPTON on Apr 12, 16 8:38 PM
It's going to end up in all our yards. Illegal dumping will skyrocket
By GoldenBoy (351), EastEnd on Apr 12, 16 9:25 PM
2 members liked this comment
How about they pile it up on the clubhouse front lawn at "The Bridge"?
By Mr. Z (11847), North Sea on Apr 12, 16 10:16 PM
2 members liked this comment
Sounds like Mr. Schneiderman is trying to steal Sand Land's business!!!!!! Is that a proper role for government?.
By Colt (37), Wainscott on Apr 13, 16 10:16 AM
i think we should start dumping at Robert DeLuca's property!!
By johnnyhampton (82), Southampton on Apr 13, 16 10:59 PM