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Oct 1, 2018 10:02 AMPublication: The Southampton Press

Town Looks To Secure Court Order Against Sand Land

State officials are demanding that mining operations cease and reclamation activities begin at Sand Land. DANA SHAW
Oct 1, 2018 10:02 AM

Southampton Town officials are working to secure a court order to force mine operators to stop accepting, processing and selling vegetative waste and construction debris at Sand Land, a Noyac sand mine and mulch-composting business that has been accused of polluting the groundwater.

The activities have already been ruled illegal by the town, a decision which was held up in New York State court, and are prohibited under town code.

“We go out there and we cite them with code enforcement, but we’ve been looking for a judge to issue an order that would force them to stop, and if they didn’t then they would be in contempt of court,” Town Supervisor Jay Schneiderman said. “That comes with a stiffer penalty than a code enforcement violation. It’s a potentially jail-able offense.”

Town officials have been trying to get the order issued for several years now. According to Mr. Schneiderman, the hope is that a recent permit modification proposed by the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation, along with a report released by the Suffolk County Department of Health in July, will now be enough reason for a judge to issue the court order.

News of the town’s revamped legal efforts to shut down the 50-acre Middle Line Highway site came just after claims from civic leaders accusing Sand Land of violating previous commitments made to the DEC.

According to Robert DeLuca, president of the Group for the East End, an advocacy group that has long pushed for water testing at the site, Sand Land employees were seen processing brush, vegetative waste and other land clearing debris around 11 a.m. on Wednesday, September 19—activities that mine owner John Tintle committed to stop by September 1, according to a letter written by DEC commissioner Basil Seggos.

A surveillance camera on an adjacent residential property recorded the operation, he noted. “Every day there is activity that is potentially damaging the aquifer isn’t good for the public,” Mr. DeLuca said last week.

Sand Land’s attorney, Brian Matthews of Matthews, Kirst & Cooley PLLC in East Hampton did not comment when asked whether the facility continues to accept and process such debris. Mr. Schneiderman also declined to comment, noting only that he had heard allegations but was unsure if they were, in fact, true.

Days before, the DEC sent a letter to Mr. Tintle demanding that mining operations cease and reclamation activities begin by September 27 at the Noyac site. The proposed permit modification marked the first time the DEC has sought to convert a mining permit to a reclamation permit.

According to the letter dated September 10, studies conducted by DEC staff in 2017 and 2018 found that minimum quantities of sand were available to be mined from the site. It also noted that processing vegetative organic waste posed a threat to groundwater.

Last week, Mr. Matthews said that he would file an appeal on the proposed permit modification on behalf of the mining company before the deadline of September 26. “We disagree with it and are going to appeal it and present our argument at the proper time,” he said.

A statement released by the DEC last month, read, in part: “Based on the continued concerns regarding the facility’s impacts on the environment, DEC is seeking to modify this facility’s permit to require the cessation of mining operations and require completion of reclamation within two years.”

Mr. Schneiderman noted that once reclamation is complete, the property could potentially be developed for another use or preserved.

Mr. Matthews would not disclose whether the company would still look to renew its mining permit, which expires in early November—saying only that he doesn’t believe that the appeal process “would be any obstacle” to Sand Land’s permit renewal should they choose to pursue it.

Local civic and elected officials have been calling on the DEC to shut down Sand Land for several years. The study conducted by the Suffolk County Department of Health Services and released in July found elevated levels of chemicals and contaminants in Sand Land’s groundwater—including manganese, iron, thallium, sodium, nitrate, ammonia and gross alpha.

Although the appeal may take some time, Mr. DeLuca said he hopes that officials from the DEC and Southampton Town start working together in the coming weeks to develop a “framework for action that everybody understands.”

“Both the town and the state have a role here in managing the future of the facility,” Mr. DeLuca added. “Getting it right matters, getting it right now, I think is our best chance. I am hopeful, although it is tough to keep seeing these activities.”

Although Southampton Town code enforcement officials continue to regularly monitor the site, writing tickets when activities violate town zoning ordinances, state violations can not be enforced by the local officers.

“We would like to see the DEC enforce their rules,” Mr. Schneiderman said. “It’s certainly encouraging that the DEC has taken action here to bring about the closure of the facility as a sand mine.”

As for the future of sand mining on the South Fork, Mr. Schneiderman said he doesn’t see any big issues with mining itself, but rather has broader concerns about facilities that process yard waste.

“So far from the Sand Land facility, the water contamination issue seemed to come more from vegetative waste processing,” he said. “Sand mining itself may not be such an issue in terms of drinking water. Sand is a very necessary raw material—you can’t just mine beaches, you need these sand facilities. We need our beaches rebuilt, we need drainage structures, we need sand to make concrete to build foundation. Sand plays a role in our local economy.”

There are four sand mines in Southampton Town—the biggest of which is in East Quouge—and three town-operated yard waste processing facilities.

The processing facilities—located in North Sea, Hampton Bays and Westhampton—are monitored by on- and off-site wells and, according to Mr. Schneiderman, no direct contamination has been detected on or near any of the properties.

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But the racetrack!
By adlkjd923ilifmac.aladfksdurwp (734), southampton on Oct 2, 18 5:40 PM
Buy him out with CPF money and put in a recreation facility. Skate park, basketball, bocci,tennis,running track, baseball diamond. Great use of the land, benefits all...
By capt rich (12), Southampton on Oct 2, 18 6:10 PM
nimby wins another round
By xtiego (698), bridgehampton on Oct 2, 18 6:11 PM
been there since the 50's maybe not subject to current zoning??
By xtiego (698), bridgehampton on Oct 2, 18 6:12 PM
Everyone need to brush up [intended!] on their history, and read the article more carefully IMO.

The use in the 50's was pure sand mining. Were Vince and Rocky the original owners? That pre-existing use might have been grandfathered in when zoning came along, but the current use far exceeds simple sand mining.

The processing of organic waste is a post-zoning NON-CONFORMING use, which is the subject of the current action to shut it down.

Not to mention it may be polluting ...more
By PBR (4945), Southampton on Oct 2, 18 6:24 PM
"The processing of organic waste is ALLEGED TO BE a post-zoning..."

Edited for accuracy - they are entitled to their days in court until the matter has been fully adjudicated.
By VOS (1224), WHB on Oct 2, 18 9:07 PM
1 member liked this comment
What a joke this SHTB is! The same crap happens at the towns own facilities but yet the rules do not apply to the town. This is a money move. Follow the money and dirt of SHTB.
By Hamptonsway (93), Southampton on Oct 2, 18 9:34 PM
Look at the north sea DUMP [landfill, proper word now], doing the same thing. Backed by town money and lawyers.
A bunch of 212's that bought cheap land and say, not in my neighborhood.... I belong to a neighbor hood and know my neighbors...
By capt rich (12), Southampton on Oct 3, 18 12:06 AM
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