Opponents say state agency has failed to protect drinking water

Town Urged To Fight DEC Sand Land Ruling




Opponents of the Sand Land facility in Noyac, upset over the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation’s recent decision to grant the company an eight-year extension of its mining permit, brought their case to the Southampton Town Board on March 26.

“Eastern Long Island has been abandoned by the DEC, the one body that is supposed to protect our environment,” said Elena Loreto, president of the Noyac Civic Council, which has been calling for the facility’s closure for years. “Shocking.”

Loreto asked each town board member if they would commit “to sue the pants off the DEC,” condemn the permit extension, and take advantage of a new state law that would allow the town to oversee where monitoring wells are placed at the site.

One by one, board members agreed to her requests, although Supervisor Jay Schneiderman said the town, which has been involved in a multi-front legal battle with Sand Land for much of the past decade, would weigh its legal options to see if a suit with the DEC would be warranted.

Councilman John Bouvier said he was particularly upset that the DEC had agreed to allow Sand Land to hire a company of its own choosing to monitor the groundwater at the site. “I found that to be an outrageous part of that settlement,” he said.

Opponents of Sand Land, which is run by Wainscott Sand and Gravel, have long argued that other activities at the site, including composting and mulching and the recycling of construction debris, have polluted the groundwater.

They seized on a study by the Suffolk County Department of Health Services in 2018 that showed elevated levels of lead, manganese, and other pollutants in the groundwater at the 50-acre site to step up their effort to close the facility. That wish appeared to have been granted last September when the DEC announced that it would not renew Sand Land’s mining permit and had ordered the site to be reclaimed.

But on March 15, the DEC announced that it had reached a new agreement with Sand Land, one that would allow the company to continue mining for eight more years and dig another 40 feet deeper for the sand that is a vital ingredient in concrete. The DEC also announced it would give the company 10 years to fully reclaim the site while promising that it would be required to install state-of-the-art groundwater monitoring systems.

“This is madness. You have all have worked very hard on this issue. I just pray that you can continue to move on this,” said Robert DeLuca, president of Group for the East End, an environmental advocacy organization that has also targeted Sand Land for closure.

DeLuca said he was concerned because in the settlement, the DEC exaggerated the size of the mine and failed to include any prohibition against Sand Land requesting permission to expand the mine horizontally after it exhausts its current permit. He said he feared the company would expand the mine and then request retroactive approval from the DEC.

DeLuca called on the town board to pass a resolution condemning the DEC’s decision and demanding that it hold a local hearing with DEC Commissioner Basil Seggos in attendance.

He urged the town to be willing to sue the DEC if it does not reconsider its decision. “It’s all in the best interest of the public, the groundwater, and what this board has stood for the past five years,” he said.

sjkotz@indyeastend.com