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Oct 27, 2015 3:43 PMPublication: The Southampton Press

Sand Land Expansion Won't Be Settled Quickly

Sand Land mine in Noyac. ALISHA STEINDECKER
Oct 27, 2015 3:43 PM

Only time will tell the fate of a proposed expansion of a sand mine in Noyac, as a public hearing last week was just the beginning of what promises to be a long appeal process.

More than 100 people had gathered at the Bridgehampton Community Center at the October 20 hearing to urge a top judge from the Department of Environmental Conservation to uphold the April denial of the mine’s expansion plans. Many of the same faces were present at the related “issues conference,” which took place the following two days.

At the conference, several different parties who are seeking to be interveners in the case, meaning that they want to formally join the litigation, attended to explain to Chief Administrative Law Judge James McClymonds why they are qualified to do so.

Those who have requested to intervene include the Town of Southampton, State Assemblyman Fred W. Thiele Jr., the Group for the East End, and the Citizens Campaign for the Environment, among others.

The owners of the sand mine, known locally as Sand Land, are attempting to expand the 50-acre operation in Noyac by excavating an extra 4.9 acres of adjacent land. They also are seeking to dig another 40 feet deeper than they do currently, which would bring its operation to only 120 feet above the water table, instead of 160 feet.

Many turned out to oppose the mine’s expansion, and even challenged its existence in the first place, because it is located above the aquifer that supplies drinking water to much of Southampton and East Hampton towns. Much of the operation is now being used for mulching operations.

“If you look at the competency of people providing input, the breadth and depth of who was there, including the town, state, community and regional environmental organizations—and also the DEC, supporting its own denial—I think the challenge for the judge was to just make sure that he was able to fully understand each particular party’s expertise,” said Robert DeLuca, president of the Group for the East End.

According to Mr. Thiele, the judge will not make a decision on those requesting intervener status for a few weeks, and a subsequent decision on the appeal will not be made for a few months.

Judge McClymonds ordered that the transcript of the conference be provided within 30 days, and once it has been provided, the parties must file briefs to support their positions within 45 days. Responding briefs must be filed within 30 days after that.

Despite the DEC’s rejection and recently confirmed surface water contamination at the site, the owners of Wainscott Sand & Gravel Inc. have not yet given up on their appeal. At last week’s hearing, not one person spoke in support of the mine’s expansion, aside from David Eagan, the attorney for Sand Land itself.

At the issues conference, Judge McClymonds and those who were present examined DEC Executive Deputy Commissioner Marc S. Gerstman’s basis for the April denial of the mine’s expansion.

“The judge did not seem shocked,” Elena Loreto, president of the Noyac Civic Council, said of the daily happenings at the Sand Land site. “He was impassive and unemotional, but he gathered all of the information.”

Mr. DeLuca said the judge was fair and objective, especially because so many parties were present. “The gravity and importance of it was not lost on the judge,” he said. “All of the information got presented in the clearest way, and I thought he was more than fair to all parties in terms of giving everyone their say, including the guys from Sand Land.”

Other issues that were explored at length included the potential for groundwater contamination considering the surface water tested positive for contamination and whether Sand Land has mined in areas that should not have been mined.

According to Mr. Thiele, Judge McClymonds will see Sand Land for himself sometime in the near future.

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