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Mar 2, 2016 10:08 AMPublication: The Southampton Press

Suffolk County Study May Confirm Concerns Of Sand Land Neighbors

Mar 2, 2016 10:37 AM

A recent study that links groundwater contamination to mulching and composting may confirm the concerns of opponents of a Noyac sand mine—that their own groundwater could be in danger.

The Suffolk County study, released in January, examined 11 compost and vegetative organic waste management facility sites, including two on the South Fork, in Eastport and Speonk, and found elevated concentrations of metals and pesticides in the groundwater.

Environmentalists have said all along that the same could be true at the Noyac sand mine, which is known locally as Sand Land and has for years been used for mulching and composting. It sits above an aquifer that supplies most of the drinking water to Southampton and East Hampton towns, and has been operating since 1981 with approval from the State Department of Environmental Conservation. The owners, Wainscott Sand & Gravel, have continuously used their mining permit to justify their solid waste processing facility, much to the dismay of residents who live nearby.

According to Robert DeLuca, president of the Group for the East End, the study and its data are especially important for the Sand Land mine at this time, as the owners are currently trying to expand their 50-acre operation. “These industrial waste processing operations have a very high likelihood of contaminating, and the county study confirms that that’s the case,” he said. “From our standpoint, sitting on top of an aquifer there, and you have to ask if there should be any activity—they had a mine, they are asking for an expansion, and we don’t think an expansion should go forward because of the aquifer.”

The state initially denied Wainscott Sand & Gravel’s request to expand last year and Sand Land is in the process of appealing that decision.

Southampton Town Supervisor Jay Schneiderman said last week that because Sand Land sits right above an aquifer, its operations should be closely monitored. “I have had concerns about Sand Land and the operations there and the deep groundwater recharge and aquifer area,” he said. “The county had done some testing at my behest of pond water on the site, and there were some alarming, concerning products found in there.”

Groundwater that was tested last May was actually free of contamination. However, Mr. Schneiderman argues that those results are invalid, as county officials were not able to test the water from the sand pit itself and instead were forced to test it from the road—the owner would not give them permission to be on the property.

And when the test wells were finally installed on the road, they were not placed in the correct direction of groundwater flow, according to the supervisor. “Their model was incorrect,” Mr. Schneiderman said.

The study notes that the same mistake was made at the Fifth Avenue facility in Speonk, where County Health Department officials installed three monitoring wells in the wrong place, as the groundwater was not moving in the direction they thought.

The state is reviewing regulations for mulch processing facilities that would require runoff management plans to keep groundwater from being contaminated. The regulations would also require low-volume processing facilities to register with the state, and facilities that receive 250 tons or more per day of concrete, asphalt, rock, brick or soil would need a DEC permit.

“Groundwater testing is essential for all these places,” said Noyac Civic Council President Elena Loreto.

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