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Mar 13, 2018 3:41 PMPublication: The Southampton Press

Raw Data Reveals Water Contamination At Sand Land Site In Noyac

Elena Loreto, president of the Noyac Civil Council.  DANA SHAW
Mar 13, 2018 4:26 PM

Newly released data from the Suffolk County Department of Health Services—compiled from tests examining both surface and groundwater near a Noyac sand mine and mulch composting business that has long been suspected of polluting water supplies—show significant contamination from various chemicals, including lead and arsenic.

Two environmentalist groups, the Group for the East End and Citizens Campaign for the Environment, requested the testing results under the Freedom of Information Law after a judge ordered that the monitoring wells be installed last summer at the business, Sand Land, which is owned by Wainscott Sand and Gravel. With the results, made public at a press conference on Friday, they called for Sand Land to be shut down.

The installation of the test wells came as a result of suspicion that the company’s mulching and composting operations were polluting the groundwater. After being granted permission to install the wells, representatives of the Suffolk County Department of Health Services had to sue Sand Land after the company’s owners rescinded their offer to open up their operation to outside testing. A court ordered the testing.

The county department has not yet released its own report on the test results, which it says could be several weeks away from completion.

The leaders of the two environmental groups, Robert DeLuca of the Group for the East End and Adrienne Esposito of Citizens Campaign for the Environment, revealed the test results at a press conference on Friday, explaining that contamination was detected in all 10 testing wells installed by the county.

The data also revealed that multiple chemicals were found in either the aquifer, which supplies drinking water to the entire East End, or in surface level water. All contamination exceeds the State Department of Environmental Conservation’s health advisory levels, according to the documentation.

In the groundwater, multiple spikes of nitrate-nitrogen were identified that exceeded the DEC’s standard of 10 parts per million, or ppm. The highest amount reported at one of the monitoring wells came in at 19.8 ppm, according to the environmentalists.

Another chemical, manganese, was detected in massive quantities—both the average and the maximum spikes were well above the DEC’s advised 300 parts per billion, or ppb. The highest spike hovers at 26,211 ppb, according to the documentation.

Cobalt also was detected in the groundwater. Though there is no health advisory level established for cobalt in drinking water, the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry establishes the norm in the United States as between one and 10 ppb. The greatest spike in the Sand Land wells sits at 107 ppb, according to the test results.

Testing of the surface-level water yielded similar results. Lead, arsenic and manganese were all found in amounts significantly surpassing the DEC’s standards. The maximum concentration of lead found was about 97 ppb, far above the safety level of 20 ppb; for arsenic, the peak was 85 ppb, surpassing the safety level 20 ppb; and for manganese, the maximum amount found was about 730 ppb, compared to the safety threshold of 300 ppb.

All of these chemicals have known or suspected deleterious effects on human health when consumed in high concentrations. Excessive levels of nitrate-nitrogen in drinking water can cause methemoglobinemia, a disease that primarily affects infants.

Less well established are the health effects from the presence of manganese in drinking water. According to the World Health Organization, the effects of inhaling manganese dust are well-documented and include irreversible neurological damage; no conclusive survey has yet established that orally intaking the chemical has the same effect.

Cobalt is similar: inhaling too much causes intense respiratory problems, but the effects of drinking a large quantity of the chemical in water are largely unconfirmed. According to the Environmental Protection Agency though, a connection has been reported between orally ingesting cobalt and gastrointestinal effects—like nausea and vomiting—and liver damage.

Lead is classified by the EPA as a “probable human carcinogen” and has been linked to higher risks of cardiovascular disease and cancer. Arsenic is a carcinogen and when taken in at high enough concentrations, can cause skin, bladder and lung cancer.

Sand Land’s attorney, Brian Matthews of Matthews, Kirst & Cooley PLLC in East Hampton, did not respond to several requests seeking comment on the test findings.

When asked about the testing results, Grace Kelly-McGovern, the public relations director for the Suffolk County Department of Health, reiterated her statement from mid-February that the official report would be released in two to four weeks. She wrote in an email: “What the environmentalists are discussing is raw data. We’ll know more once our engineers review and validate the data.”

It is also unclear how close to drinking wells the contamination sites are, and whether homeowners of any nearby private wells have been alerted to the pollution—Ms. Kelly-McGovern did not immediately respond to those questions.

State Assemblyman Fred Thiele Jr. is calling on the county to expedite the official report’s release. “We cannot wait until April for the Suffolk County Department of Health Services to release its report on the contamination,” he said via a press release. “The testing was done months ago, and the [department] has had the raw data for weeks. Their report must be made public in the next two weeks.”

Additionally, he called for immediate testing of all nearby wells down-gradient of the contamination site, and also urged Southampton Town Supervisor Jay Schneiderman to block Sand Land’s request to expand its operation.

In February, an administrative court at the DEC granted Mr. Schneiderman the authority to decide if the expansion—which would enlarge the operation by 4.9 acres and allow the excavation of an additional 40 more feet below the surface—is legal under local zoning laws. Mr. Schneiderman has stated that such an operation is illegal, though Mr. Matthews has attempted to get the case “re-argued,” and can always appeal the DEC ruling if his first attempt fails.

Meanwhile, local environmentalists who have spearheaded the investigation into Sand Land for the past decade have their own simple demand: shut it down.

“Sand Land is out of sand, so what are they doing?” asked Ms. Esposito at last week’s press conference. “They are dumping waste, mulch and other hazardous material.

“The DEC needs to hold protecting our drinking water as the highest priority and shut down Sand Land,” she continued.

Mr. DeLuca seconded her call to action. “This is a grassroots endeavor,” he said. “We need to make enough noise with enough data to back it up.”

“Write letters to your local editors, call the governor’s office,” Ms. Esposito added. “The more you speak up and out, that voice will be carried to Albany.”

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Is this only coming from sand land or from the golf course or other sources. Possibly the race track???
By knitter (1684), Southampton on Mar 8, 18 7:02 PM
Don't drink the water!
By HamptonDad (211), Hampton Bays on Mar 8, 18 11:50 PM
Why isn’t there any test wells at the golf course? Unless that course only uses all organic material?
By johnnyhampton (81), Southampton on Mar 10, 18 6:42 AM
The golf course has been surrounded by test wells and under constant monitoring for the last 20 years.
It was a condition of their approval.
By aging hipster (182), Southampton on Mar 11, 18 6:34 AM
I wonder how much better the impact of a subdivision of mcmansions with glowing lawns would be? But at least the neighbors will be happy with higher property values.
By thepresssucks (22), watermill on Mar 10, 18 11:31 AM
The town should ban nitrogen based fertilizers that are used on thousands of lawns. There are organic alternatives.
By North Sea Citizen (533), North Sea on Mar 11, 18 7:07 AM
How do you propose the Town monitor what is applied to tens of thousands of lawns?
By aging hipster (182), Southampton on Mar 12, 18 6:59 AM
Fred's a real jerk wanting a letter that says mining is illegal. That mine has been there since the 40's. Way to go slippery Fred
By chief1 (2695), southampton on Mar 12, 18 5:11 PM
Seems that the problem could be more related to mulching than mining.
Also, do you think we should just keep shooting ourselves in the foot just because that's what we've been doing since the 40's?
By adlkjd923ilifmac.aladfksdurwp (662), southampton on Mar 12, 18 5:24 PM
Have any test wells been put south of the Bridge?
By knitter (1684), Southampton on Mar 13, 18 9:52 AM
Southampton town has known about this problem but no action. Where are the town officials in charge of environmental issues. Perhaps we need a forensic analysis of their financial activity .
Individual home owners are constantly harassed by them but they do not seem to care about large corporations that get away with polluting our water supply.
By patriot50 (42), sag harbor on Mar 15, 18 4:59 PM
Suffolk Designer Lighting, Tent Sale, Renovation Sample Sale