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Mar 19, 2019 3:17 PMPublication: The Southampton Press

DEC Grants Sand Land Eight More Years Of Operation In Settlement

The Sand Land mining operation in Bridgehampton.
Mar 19, 2019 4:19 PM

Local lawmakers and community leaders said they were shocked by the news on Friday that the State Department of Environmental Conservation had entered a settlement agreement that will allow the Sand Land mine to continue its mining operations for another eight years—a retreat from the DEC’s former plan to shut down the Noyac mine within two years.

The agreement stated that Sand Land will have to cease operations within eight years and complete reclamation within 10 years, a significantly longer time period than the DEC had previously sought. In September 2018, the department had issued a notice seeking to modify Sand Land’s existing mining permit in order to halt operations and complete reclamation within two years.

The DEC is proposing to issue a new five-year mining permit in order to grant additional time to Sand Land. The agreement also allows the mine to excavate an additional 40 feet underground.

At the same time, it would immediately ban the acceptance of vegetative waste that was being composted at the site, implement a groundwater monitoring program conducted by an independent monitor, and increase required financial guarantees.

In December, the DEC denied Sand Land’s motion to renew and re-argue permit hearing proceedings on its application to expand vertically by 40 feet and horizontally by 4.9 acres. The ruling came after Southampton Town notified the DEC that Sand Land’s expansion was not authorized under local law. The mining company appealed that ruling, but no further action had been taken.

Local stakeholders who have battled for years to shut down Sand Land said they were unaware of the new settlement or any related discussions with the DEC until Friday—the day the announcement was made.

“The whole thing is sort of a shock and, at this point, I need to talk with our legal counsel and with the Town Board to figure out what our next steps should be,” Southampton Town Supervisor Jay Schneiderman said, adding that he did not find it necessary for the DEC to establish a groundwater monitoring program, as recent state legislation already allowed towns to do so.

State Assemblyman Fred W. Thiele Jr. said he was working with the Noyac Civic Council, environmental groups and other stakeholders to schedule a local public hearing on the pending five-year permit. The permit application will be available for public review and comment beginning on Wednesday, March 20.

“There’s really nothing in that settlement that benefits the public,” Mr. Thiele said. “So we will assess our options and certainly look to have the DEC keep their original promise, which was to close this sand mine expeditiously.”

“It is absolutely ridiculous. They do not care for the community’s water supply. They do not care,” Noyac Civic Council President Elena Loreto said, referring to the DEC. “They are negating the findings of the health department.”

The Suffolk County Department of Health Services unveiled a report in July 2018 that showed there was significant contamination to the aquifer beneath the sand mine. Sand Land does not believe its use of the property resulted in that groundwater contamination and disagrees with anyone who argues that the county report confirmed that it did, said Sand Land’s attorney, Brian Matthews of Matthews, Kirst & Cooley.

“We believe that the agreement is fair, despite claims to the contrary by neighbors and other interested parties,” Mr. Matthews said of the DEC announcement last week. “But, maybe most importantly, we believe that it strikes the perfect balance between our client’s long-established right to use the property for the operation of a sand and gravel mine, and the department’s obligations to ensure that mining is done in a proper manner, and everyone’s interest in confirming that no groundwater contamination occurs as a result of the use of that mine.”

The agreement was reached to resolve three mining permit issues and to address all community concerns in a quick manner, bypassing any lengthy litigation processes, according to the DEC. Negotiations with Sand Land and ongoing investigations and monitoring of the property led to the final settlement, the department added.

Mr. Thiele mentioned that he has been attempting for months to schedule a meeting with DEC Commissioner Basil Seggos to discuss various environmental issues, the situation at Sand Land being one of them, and Mr. Seggos had canceled every time.

“Now, based on having seen this settlement, maybe now I know why he kept canceling,” he said.

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I'm smelling a plain brown envelope...

Anyone else?
By aging hipster (195), Southampton on Mar 20, 19 10:34 AM
1 member liked this comment
The DEC should be abolished. All they care about is their fees. Each year they issue more & more permits which destroy our environment & wildlife (timber harvesting, mining, hunting, destruction of wetlands, oversized docks blocking beach access). Plus, according to their own website, they do not and cannot enforce their own rules. I'd have to agree with that plain brown envelope.
By NoName27 (16), Southampton on Mar 20, 19 11:16 AM
1 member liked this comment
Welll done NYSDEC. Keeping the sand mining operations and banning composting is the right decision. This family business providing sand and stone is vital for the construction industry int our region.
By A Great American (95), East Quogue on Mar 20, 19 12:52 PM
4 members liked this comment
The Hampton Classic, Horse Show, Bridgehampton