Neighbors on Middle Highway were stunned to learn a dormant mine was going to begin operating again: dredging 110 feet under the water level and creating a six-acre lake in the process.
East Hampton Town officials also expressed surprise, though critics contend they did little to stop the operation.
Sand Highway wants to begin operating again, and Patrick Bistrian Jr. is the name behind the LLC. The Bistrian family is one of East Hampton’s preeminent, largest landowners, and has a history in mining.
The company secured a permit from the State Department of Environmental Conservation, and that’s all it needs, at least on paper. Even East Hampton Town Supervisor Peter Van Scoyoc acknowledges mining is a “pre-existing, non-conforming” use of the property.
But expansion isn’t, town officials maintain.
Last week Van Scoyoc fired off a letter to the DEC stating the mining proposal “clearly poses the potential for numerous significant adverse impacts,” and does not comply with town laws.
The Suffolk County Water Authority also wrote the DEC in opposition last October. CEO Jeffrey Szabo said the existing sand, gravel, and clay act as a natural barrier to prevent contamination from going deeper into the aquifer. “When materials that make up this barrier are removed, the protection of the aquifer is reduced or lost altogether,” he said.
Assemblyman Fred Thiele also chimed in, expressing concern for the groundwater should the mining
Nanci LaGarenne, a neighbor, has been at the forefront of the move to stop the dredging. She said the mine was dormant when the houses were built around the property.
“Nothing was going on in there,” she said. “It should have been reclaimed and preserved or condemned. That was the town’s bad, back then.”
The fact that it was once actively mined does not mean the property can begin operating as a place for mining again without full municipal review.
“What transpired back in the day does not apply today,” LaGarenne said. “We know now what interference with groundwater and soil can do to the health of the people and the local environment.”
Sand Highway representatives could not be reached for comment by press time.