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Oct 21, 2015 11:03 AMPublication: The Southampton Press

Community Residents Urge DEC To Uphold Decision Against Sand Land Mine Expansion

Concerned citizens spoke out against the Sand Land mine in Noyac. ALISHA STEINDECKER
Oct 21, 2015 12:15 PM

Speakers at a public hearing on Tuesday urged a top administrative judge to uphold a denial of an expansion of Sand Land by the State Department of Environmental Conservation.

Judge James McClymonds, the chief administrative law judge at the DEC, presided over the hearing, at which the only speaker supporting the expansion was David Eagan, attorney for Sand Land and its owner, John Tintle.

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

On Tuesday, Mr. Eagan said that though testing showed surface water has been confirmed to be contaminated from activity at the site, that doesn’t mean groundwater below the surface will be affected. He cited results from monitoring wells along Middle Line Highway, which showed no groundwater contamination.

The surface water sample, which was taken from the northeast side of the property in May, contained various chemicals, including chlordane, a pesticide that has been banned in the United States since 1988, because it is extremely dangerous to human health, according to both the DEC and the Suffolk County Department of Health. In spite of the Suffolk County Department of Health’s confirmation that there is, in fact, surface water contamination at the mine at Wainscott Sand & Gravel, the owners are continuing to appeal the DEC decision last year that denied the expansion.

Suffolk County Legislator Jay Schneiderman said last week that the groundwater test results cited by Mr. Eagan are not reliable, because Sand Land would not allow county workers to collect samples from the sand pit itself. Instead, engineers had to test the groundwater from the road.

At the public hearing, Mr. Schneiderman reiterated that the test wells are not located in the right place. “When the wells were put in, [the Health Department] determined that the direction of flow was not from the sand pit,” he said, adding that if he were smoking a cigarette and the wind was blowing at his back, he would not breathe in the second-hand smoke.

State Assemblyman Fred W. Thiele Jr. said that the DEC was correct in its decision to deny the owners permission to expand the sand mine. “There are the potentials of significant groundwater impacts,” he said, adding that the expansion would fall under review required by the State Environmental Quality Review Act, in which the DEC is required “to take a hard look to make sure and assess that the project will not have a significant adverse impact on the environment.”

“There is no room for error here,” said Southampton Town Councilwoman Christine Scalera. She added that the DEC denial of Sand Land’s request to expand its mine is “central to the health and welfare of the community.”

Bridgehampton Citizens Advisory Committee member Jenice Delano made the point that Sand Land does not make most of its money from mining, but from its mulching and composting activities at the site. In fact, the mine has been in operation with DEC approval since 1981 and has used its mining permit to justify its solid waste processing facility.

In 2012, the Southampton Town Zoning Board of Appeals ruled that the land could no longer be used for those activities, but a Suffolk County Supreme Court justice later overturned that decision. Since then, Sand Land has composted, processed and sold mulch.

“If the DEC said they were out of sand, then they would be out of composting and mulching, too,” Ms. Delano said, emphasizing that there really is no sand left, which is why the owners are asking for an expansion to accommodate their other operations.

If Wainscott Sand & Gravel is successful in its appeal, the owners say they could mine for another 25 years—which also would mean another 25 years of its solid waste processing business.

Adrian Esposito, a member of the Citizens Campaign for the Environment, explained that the surface water contamination numbers are some of the highest on Long Island.

“We are not hallucinating,” she said. “I hope Mr. Tintle lives a long, happy healthy life, but I hope everyone else does too.”

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