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Jul 9, 2018 2:42 PMPublication: The Southampton Press

Sand Land Questions County Report

The Sand Land sand mine in Noyac. PRESS FILE
Jul 10, 2018 12:48 PM

Sand Land, the Noyac sand mine and mulch composting business owned by Wainscott Sand and Gravel, is disputing the final report released by the Suffolk County Department of Health Services last week, one that claims the aquifer beneath the 50-acre Middle Line Highway site has been contaminated by its activities.

Sand Land representatives are questioning the credibility of the Health Department’s investigation, which was mandated by the Suffolk County Legislature in 2015. It found elevated levels of chemicals and contaminants in the groundwater, including manganese, iron, thallium, sodium, nitrate, ammonia and gross alpha, as well as pesticides found in surface water.

A statement issued by Sand Land reads, in part: “Sand Land is reviewing the report prepared by the [Health Department], including the testing methodologies, results and the scientific basis, if any, for the report’s conclusions. However, a preliminary review of that report reveals a number of internal inconsistencies and other critical findings that belie any conclusion that the use of the site has had significant adverse impact on the groundwater.”

The county report also concluded that water used by all 36 properties with private wells that are downgradient from the site met all drinking water standards, and that on-site samples of vegetative material contained low concentrations of volatile organic compounds that did not exceed State Department of Environmental Conservation soil standards.

According to Sand Land’s attorney, Brian Matthews of Matthews, Kirst & Cooley PLLC in East Hampton, sand mine property owner John Tintle had his own monitoring wells installed on the site. Using those wells, licensed professionals found that water flowed the opposite direction than the westerly route determined by the county, “thereby showing that any elevated levels are not related to any activities at the site,” according to Mr. Matthews. He also noted that Sand Land’s private water tests met all drinking water standards.

The county report, which was made public late last month, sparked many local officials and lawmakers to speak out. Both State Assemblyman Fred W. Thiele Jr. and County Legislator Bridget Fleming called for action.

“Those who deny the threat to the environment from this contamination have their heads deeper in the sand than the offending contamination,” Mr. Thiele said in a statement.

“We are all in support of having clean ground water, but we think the testing bears out that we’re not having a negative impact on water quality” Mr. Matthews said. “We have a number of issues with the county report—we find it to be flawed and, frankly, predetermined.”

Sand Land officials also noted that Southampton Town has three facilities—in North Sea, Hampton Bays and Westhampton—that process, store and distribute organic waste. According to Mr. Matthews, Southampton Town has not conducted the same water testing at its own facilities.

“It speaks volumes that they have focused solely on our client’s property,” Mr. Matthews said.

Similarly, local residents in North Sea have also been pushing for testing at the North Sea Transfer Station on Majors Path. Charlie Corwith, who has lived just around the corner from the site for the past 14 years, said that he and his neighbors have all complained to the town and advocated for water quality testing.

“They’re taking in all of the debris from the big landscaping trucks and making mulch, and it smells terrible,” Mr. Corwith said. “Nobody seems to be interested in doing anything about it.”

In response to the county investigation of Sand Land, Mr. Matthews said Sand Land officials will address the Health Department’s recommendations if need be. He declined to say what their next steps will be, as litigation is ongoing, but said that they will continue to vet the Health Department’s report.

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Is access to safe drinking water a fundamental human right?
By Aeshtron (407), Southampton on Jul 9, 18 4:28 PM
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