Opponents of the Sand Land sand mine and composting facility on Millstone Road in Noyac were granted a temporary restraining order on June 26 from the New York State Supreme Court’s Appellate Division, preventing Sand Land from expanding mining activities as recently permitted by the state Department of Environmental Conservation.
Southampton Town, neighbors, environmental groups, and Assemblyman Fred Thiele sued the DEC over its about-face on Sand Land in March when it reversed an earlier decision and announced it would allow Sand Land to both extend its permit and expand the area being mined.
Opponents have long claimed the operation, which had expanded over the years to include the composting of vegetative waste and recycling of construction and demolition debris, was polluting the groundwater. They cited a 2017 Suffolk County Department of Health Services study, which showed elevated levels of heavy metals and other pollutants in water samples, as proof.
They have also pointed to Sand Land’s location in a local aquifer protection district and New York State-designated Special Groundwater Protection Area as further reason to shut it down.
“For all of the critical responsibilities given to the DEC, protection of our drinking water should be paramount,” said Bob DeLuca, the president of the Group for the East End, in a release. The Group for the East End is one of the plaintiffs in the suit. “Unfortunately, DEC’s recent Sand Land settlement and new mining permit are at complete odds with the agency’s own prior decisions and more than 30 years of water quality policy and regulation designed to protect Long Island’s precious underground aquifer. We applaud the appellate court for recognizing the importance of these environmental issues and acting definitively in the public interest.”
After years of legal wrangling over a permit for the site, the DEC appeared to come down on the side of opponents. Last fall, it announced it would not renew Sand Land’s mining permit and would require the company to reclaim the disturbed area in a timely fashion.
But in March, the DEC announced that it would not only extend Sand Land’s permit for eight more years but would allow it to excavate another 40 feet below its currently allowed 160-foot depth, setting off another round of legal maneuvering.
DeLuca noted that over the past four years, Southampton Town, the DEC, and an administrative law judge have all rejected Sand Land’s applications to extend its mining permit. The DEC’s change of heart flies in the face of its own findings, he added.