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Nov 21, 2014 10:51 AMPublication: The Southampton Press

Environmentalists, Local Officials, Residents Sound Off On Proposal To Expand 'Sand Land' In Noyac

Nov 25, 2014 11:14 AM

Environmentalists, local officials and residents who live near a sand mine in Noyac came down hard on the State Department of Environmental Conservation at a public hearing on Wednesday, November 19, urging the department not only to require an environmental review of an application to expand the mine but to reject the application entirely, as the mine sits above one of Suffolk County’s deepest aquifers.

In July, the DEC determined that the proposed expansion of the mine, known locally as “Sand Land,” would have no adverse environmental effects. That determination allows Wainscott Sand & Gravel Inc.—the company that is seeking to expand the sand mine, located off Middle Line Highway—to bypass an expensive and time-consuming environmental review. The November 19 public hearing came in response to a number of complaints the DEC received after it made its determination.

Wainscott Sand & Gravel is seeking permission to expand its operations by 4.9 acres, and also to excavate 40 feet deeper than authorized under its existing state Mined Lands Reclamation Act permit, which was issued by the DEC on November 5, 2013, and expires November 4, 2018. The company must secure approval from the DEC to modify the earlier permit.

Sand Land is currently mining 50 acres, and the excavated area now extends about 65 feet below its original grade. The mine has been permitted by the DEC and in operation since 1981.

Many who attended the hearing at the Bridgehampton Community House told DEC Administrative Law Judge Molly T. McBride, who presided, that the expansion would compromise the quality of drinking water that comes from the aquifer, the bulk of which is supplied to eastern Southampton and western East Hampton towns.

Because of that, Southampton Town Supervisor Anna Throne-Holst said Sand Land should be subject to the same water monitoring protocols the town requires of The Bridge golf club, one of the mine’s neighbors, which also sits on the aquifer. An environmental impact statement was required when the golf club, which has 16 test wells to monitor drinking water, was established in the 1990s.

“Because of the sensitivity of this area, because everyone is dependent on the water quality here, this should be put through all the stringent environmental protocols. We require that at the golf course,” Ms. Throne-Holst said at the hearing, adding that “there should be absolutely no reason why something like this, that is of a whole different magnitude,” wouldn’t be required to go through the same level of review.

Environmentalists agreed. Robert DeLuca, president of the Group for the East End, Adrienne Esposito, executive director of Citizens Campaign for the Environment, and Kevin McAllister, former Peconic Baykeeper and founder of the group Defend H2O, all told Ms. McBride that expanding the mine would have a tremendous negative effect on the ground and drinking water supply, mainly due to mulching and composting activities at the site.

In 2012, the Southampton Town Zoning Board of Appeals ruled that those activities were outside the scope permitted at the site, but a Suffolk County Supreme Court justice overturned that ruling in February, allowing Sand Land to continue to process and sell mulch.

“Mulching and compost operations cause groundwater contamination, manganese … radioactivity and heavy metals,” Ms. Esposito said. “We need to assess the truth here. We believe the DEC will find the groundwater is contaminated.”

Robert Rubin, owner of The Bridge, said the mine also disrupts the neighborhood. He estimated that during the spring, some 350 trucks enter and leave the site, bringing loud noise and lots of dust in addition to foul smells from the composting.

State Assemblyman Fred W. Thiele Jr. spoke of Suffolk County’s water quality issue as a whole, explaining that in light of its decline, the DEC especially should be taking every step possible to ensure that one of the county’s largest aquifers be protected from contamination. “I’m not an environmental expert, but I can look at the grade of the mine—and this grade gets an F,” he said.

Residents who live near the mine raised the same concerns, and some sent a lawyer to speak on their behalf. Zachary Murdock, a Melville-based attorney who has represented three households immediately to the south of the mine since 2005, described the site as “a theme park for contractors.”

Neither the DEC nor John Tintle, president of Wainscott Sand & Gravel, made any comments throughout the two-hour hearing, except to summarize what the expansion project would entail.

As of this week, a DEC spokesperson could not provide a date for when the department would make a determination on the application to expand the mine, or say whether the DEC would reconsider its determination that an environmental impact statement is not required.

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As much as I would like to rail against these sand mines - I understand that we need to get concrete, glass and asphalt from somewhere, and that means we need sand.

I'd rather let the guys who have been doing it continue to do it, then create a system that (further) encourages illegal sand mining which has the potential for far more severe environmental impacts

By Nature (2966), Southampton on Nov 21, 14 12:46 PM
4 members liked this comment
Dig! Dig! Dig!
By Zorro (66), Southampton on Nov 21, 14 2:22 PM
2 members liked this comment
I like how everybody bad mouths the sand mines! But when Wainscott Sand & Gravel gets closed down everybody is going to cry the blues when their landscaper charges double for supplies because it's going to be bought up island and transported here!! And we all know its not clean local material!!
By victorc (3), Southampton on Nov 21, 14 9:05 PM
2 members liked this comment
God forbid locals work and try to make a living. We can't all be artists and stockbrokers!!!
By GoldenBoy (351), EastEnd on Nov 22, 14 6:36 AM
1 member liked this comment
Good one @goldenboy...

you are really helping the cause.

whatever cause that may be.
By adlkjd923ilifmac.aladfksdurwp (747), southampton on Nov 22, 14 8:38 AM
Remember the clean up of Rowe Industries and the gas ball in town? Do we need another Super-Fund Clean up? When will people wake up and realize that we have to monitor the surface water and ground water to prevent another disaster?
Everyone has a right to know what, if anything, is in our water supply. We no longer can put our head in the sand and believe that our world is perfect.
By Educated (3), Sag Harbor on Nov 22, 14 9:38 AM
Nature, victorc and Golden Boy, I understand what you're all saying -- we need sand, people have to work, this is the real world, etc. You're right, but we're not talking about nixing the project. All we're talking about is an environmental impact study to make sure it doesn't trash our water supply.

There shouldn't be any problem with that except that it will cost the applicant some money and time. Certainly it's worth doing that to protect our drinking water.

Look at the ...more
By Turkey Bridge (1979), Quiogue on Nov 22, 14 4:26 PM
"Fleming, Anna Throne-Holst, Bob DeLuca, Fred Thiele, Adrienne Esposito and Kevin McAllister"

REALLY? ATH and Fleming have no idea what they are talking about when it comes to the environment. There's no disputing that.

Adrienne Esposito, while knowledgeable, is a talking head that gets called by Newsday for any and every story regarding the "environment" - she is not the be all end all expert.

Fred Thiele is a politician who has a loooong history of grandstanding, ...more
By Nature (2966), Southampton on Nov 25, 14 9:15 AM
1 member liked this comment
Sadly, this facility has become more of a composting site than a sand mine. For the DEC to not require an environmental impact study is unconscionable and contrary to the State Environmental Quality Review Act mandates. It’s all about the quality of our drinking water!!
By Yes we can (16), Eastport on Nov 23, 14 6:44 PM
So what your saying is leaves composting on the ground cause ground water contamination?
This is a case of residents, and a golf course that moved next to a sand pit, and they dont like it. Tough luck, maybe you need an impact study for the nitrogen laden golf course instead.
By chief1 (2800), southampton on Nov 23, 14 7:39 PM
2 members liked this comment