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Oct 12, 2015 2:47 PMPublication: The Southampton Press

Sand Mine Expansion Appeal To Be Heard October 20; Tests Find Surface Water Contamination

Sand Land, a mine that is located off of Millstone Road in Noyac is under scrutiny by its neighbors. ALISHA STEINDECKER
Oct 26, 2015 11:12 AM

A half-year has passed since the State Department of Environmental Conservation rejected plans for expansion, but the owners of a Noyac sand mine known locally as “Sand Land” have not abandoned their efforts.

In spite of confirmed surface water contamination at their mining operation, the owners of Wainscott Sand & Gravel Inc. are continuing to appeal the DEC decision. The water sample, which was taken from the northeast side of the property in May by Suffolk County, contained various chemicals, including chlordane, a pesticide that has been banned in the United States since 1988 because of the risk it poses to human health, according to both the DEC and the Suffolk County Department of Health.

A public hearing regarding the appeal will take place on Tuesday, October 20, starting at 5 p.m., at the Bridgehampton Community Center. Chief DEC Administrative Law Judge James McClymonds will preside over the hearing, which is open to the public.

Wainscott Sand & Gravel is seeking to expand its 50-acre operation by excavating an additional 4.9 acres of adjacent land. It also intends to dig another 40 feet deeper, bringing its operation to 120 feet above the water table, instead of 160 feet.

Wainscott Sand & Gravel estimates that if its application is approved, the company could continue its sand mining operations for another 25 years. The company needs DEC approval, because the expansion is more than was authorized under the Mined Lands Reclamation Act permit issued on November 5, 2013, and which is due to expire on November 4, 2018.

Since 1979, and up until last year, the company has repeatedly stated on its DEC renewal permit applications that the expected life expectancy of its mine is 10 years. Now, Wainscott Sand & Gravel maintains that there is no more sand left to mine—which community members say has been the case for a long time.

In fact, during an inspection in 2006, DEC inspector Robert Yager reported that company officials are “reaching their limits of mining.”

John Tintle, the owner of Wainscott Sand & Gravel, did not return repeated requests seeking additional information about his appeal of the DEC’s 2014 rejection of the expansion application.

Neighbors and community members say they are angry and will voice their concerns at Tuesday’s hearing, because they think the results of the surface water testing are, in fact, indicative of what is also happening to the groundwater: They worry that it, too, could be contaminated, despite recent Suffolk County groundwater testing that showed no traces of pollution.

“I don’t want this stuff draining into our water supply,” said Elena Loreto, a Noyac resident who is also on the Noyac Civic Council. “Eventually, we either drink it or it goes into the bays.”

Suffolk County Legislator Jay Schneiderman, who ordered groundwater testing by the county at Sand Land in May, said the results have come back and did not find any contamination. However, he is insisting that those results are not reliable, because Sand Land would not allow county workers to collect samples from the sand pit itself; instead, engineers were forced to test the groundwater from the road.

“The county wanted to test, literally, in the sand pit, near where the surface contamination is—but the property owner would not give them permission,” Mr. Schneiderman said. “The groundwater came up clean, but the direction of flow was not coming from the sand pit. So the test wells are not in the correct location,” he added.

Regardless, Mr. Schneiderman said the other tests that confirm surface water contamination should make it more difficult for the company to expand operations.

Both he and environmentalists, meanwhile, say they intend to continue to push for the testing of groundwater that lies directly beneath the sand pit, and they stressed that the porous nature of the sand allows water to flow through it more quickly, and without adequate filtration. That scenario, they said, could make it possible that the sole-source aquifer that lies below the mining operation, and supplies most of the drinking water to Southampton and East Hampton towns, could be contaminated.

“We want to find out whether those contaminants are being carried down,” Mr. Schneiderman said.

They are, according to Robert DeLuca, president of Group for the East End, who said the region is called a “deep flow recharge area” for that very reason. “The groundwater, depending where you are, behaves in different ways,” he said. “It goes almost straight down, and it is like a big sponge that sucks it right down.”

Sand Land has been in operation with DEC approval since 1981 and has continuously used its mining permit as justification for its solid waste processing facility. The Southampton Town Zoning Board of Appeals had ruled in 2012 that the land could no longer be used for those activities, but a Suffolk County Supreme Court justice later overturned that decision. Sand Land has since composted, processed and sold mulch—much to the dismay of its neighbors, who complain that the smell is unbearable and that it poses a great threat to the groundwater.

At the site today, there clearly is much more mulch and compost than there is sand. “That activity has taken over the sand mine,” Mr. DeLuca said. “To anyone looking, you can see there is a tremendous amount of activity not related to sand mining.”

Those opposing the operation—a long list that includes Southampton Town, the Noyac Civic Council, State Assemblyman Fred Thiele Jr., the Bridgehampton Citizens Advisory Committee, Group for the East End and Citizens Campaign for the Environment—have compared Sand Land to the Horseblock Road area in Yaphank, which was the subject of a study performed by the DEC in 2013. That study found that different contaminants traced back to Long Island Compost/Great Gardens, a nearby composting facility, had infiltrated both residential and groundwater monitoring wells.

“I guess we know why Sand Land refused entry to the site to the Suffolk County Department of Health,” said Brian Sexton, the attorney for the mine’s next-door neighbor, The Bridge Golf Club, which follows stringent environmental protocol to protect the same aquifer. Town officials have argued that Wainscott Sand & Gravel should be required to follow the same guidelines that The Bridge must adhere to: It has 16 lysimeters on its property that test the groundwater to ensure that it will not become contaminated by fertilizers and pesticides used on the private golf course atop the aquifer.

Either way, officials say that the community has a right to know how Sand Land’s mining and composting operations are affecting the aquifer.

“How does it affect the public drinking water supply is the issue of greatest concern to the greatest amount of people,” Mr. DeLuca said. “This activity—whatever it is in all of its parts and pieces—in no way conforms to policy goals.”

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Move near a sand pit complain
Move near an airport complain
Move near the dumps complain

People are so disengenious. They buy a house cheap next to a disaster then want it shut down.
By chief1 (2783), southampton on Oct 13, 15 5:41 PM
Don't forget "move near a racetrack and complain".
By astevens21 (13), Water Mill on Oct 13, 15 10:44 PM
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