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Apr 6, 2015 10:11 AMPublication: The Southampton Press

State Department Of Environmental Conservation Rejects 'Sand Land' Application In Noyac

Apr 7, 2015 5:07 PM

The New York State Department of Environmental Conservation denied an application to expand a sand mine in Noyac, citing environmental concerns and a history of worker safety violations by the mine’s owners.

Wainscott Sand & Gravel Inc., the operator of the mine dubbed locally as “Sand Land,” located on Middle Line Highway, had applied to expand the mine by 4.9 acres and excavate 40 feet deeper than authorized under its existing State Mined Lands Reclamation Act Permit. In a letter from DEC Executive Deputy Commissioner Marc S. Gerstman to John Tintle, president of Wainscott Sand & Gravel, dated Friday, April 3, the department determined that it found the application did not meet the standards necessary to modify the permit.

The DEC’s Long Island regional office had concluded last year, after reviewing the application, that the expansion would not have any adverse environmental impacts. That decision eventually led to a public hearing in November, facilitated by a DEC administrative law judge, where local officials, environmentalists and residents urged the department to reconsider. The application was then relayed up to Albany for review.

According to Mr. Gerstman, the Long Island office’s environmental assessment of the application did not address private water supply wells in close proximity to the site, as the mine sits above one of Suffolk County’s largest aquifers. It also failed to consider the mulching and composting that takes place at the site, as well as the disposal of solid wastes—construction and demolition debris, yard waste and land clearing debris—that result from those activities. Those opposed to the expansion have said that mulching and composting contaminate groundwater with heavy metals such as manganese, and because of that, they have urged Wainscott Sand & Gravel to install more test wells to monitor the levels of those metals.

Mr. Tintle, who did not return multiple calls for comment, has said previously that he would not install more wells beyond the two that are already at the mine unless Southampton Town conducts similar stringent water testing at its three composting facilities in Westhampton, Hampton Bays and North Sea.

The DEC additionally found that upon a review of safety violations from March 1, 2009 to March 1, 2015, there were 21 instances of worker safety issues at the Noyac mine, including safe access, improper grounding circuit covers, vehicle parking brake issues, and a failure to utilize horns and backup alarms. Mr. Gerstman said that when reviewing applications, the DEC is required to consider applicants’ compliance histories with such regulations, noting that a worker at one of Mr. Tintle’s other facilities died as a result of a safety violation. Declan Boland of Riverhead, an employee at East Coast Mines Ltd. in East Quogue, died in February 2014 when attempting to put out a mulch fire on a steep bank the ground suddenly gave way beneath him, burying him alive.

Other reasons for the denial include a non-compliance with the mine’s existing permit by encroaching into the site’s buffer area and neighboring properties, and maintaining slopes that exceed the maximum allowable limit, which could lead to slope failure—something that has occurred at the mine before, according to a report Mr. Gerstman cited in his letter.

Mr. Gerstman added that all statements, complaints and concerns submitted to the DEC from neighbors of the mine should have been considered with the application as well. The comments suggested that “the facility is alleged to have violated permit conditions regarding dust, standing water, use of mulch as fill material; slopes exceeding permitted limits; failure to prevent fugitive dust from leaving the site; failure to remove fugitive dust on public roads; [and] mulch fires at its composting facility.”

“Because the application failed to meet the standards for permit issuance as listed above, the permit is hereby denied,” Mr. Gerstman wrote.

Wainscott Sand & Gravel now has less than a month to request a public hearing on the denial, according to the letter.

News of the DEC’s decision struck a happy chord with many opponents of the expansion earlier this week. On Monday evening, at a meeting of the Noyac Civic Council, the announcement drew applause from all in attendance. President Elena Loreto commended the agency in Albany for taking a closer look at the application and considering the effect the expansion would have on groundwater.

“This is the way the system is supposed to work,” Ms. Loreto said, adding that all concerns sent to the Long Island regional office seemed to have “fallen on deaf ears.”

Bob DeLuca, president of the Group for the East End added that he was frustrated that the Long Island office, which should have a better understanding of the area than the Albany office, did not see how detrimental the expansion would be to the drinking water. A study conducted by the DEC found last year that a residential well, along with several other groundwater monitoring wells in the Horseblock Road area of Yaphank, contained unhealthy levels of different contaminants. The DEC has said it believes the Long Island Compost/Great Gardens composting facility is the primary source of the contamination.

“Most of these issues were put on the record back then. If you go through this record, any objective reviewer is going to come down on any [previous] decision the DEC made,” Mr. DeLuca said. “When you look at this all together, this permit should not be issued. It is frustrating to me that the burden on the public here was very heavy—and it should not have been.”

Mr. DeLuca added that the situation with Sand Land provides an opportunity for the DEC to change its protocols on regulating vegetative waste processing plants and how it monitors their effects on drinking water.

“They’re not well-regulated, in my view, and they’re not well-monitored,” he said. “I absolutely think that whether there’s an expansion or not an expansion, what we want to do is figure out what’s going on with the drinking water.”

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Will they be seeking to build a heliport?
By Toma Noku (616), uptown on Apr 6, 15 7:13 PM
1 member liked this comment
Perhaps they can build a heliport, since the impacted area is Noyac, not Anna Throne-Holst's constituents in Western Southampton Town, the only constituents Anna and her cohorts consider need protection from airport noise---to their ever-lasting shame.
By Trish (91), Sag Harbor on Apr 8, 15 7:33 AM
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