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Organizers want Sand Land site closed after Suffolk groundwater report

Operators of the Sand Land mine in Noyack

Operators of the Sand Land mine in Noyack have agreed to a legal settlement that includes implementing several actions to protect water quality. Credit: Doug Kuntz

A Suffolk County report on contaminants in groundwater in Noyack has emboldened activists and legislators seeking an East End mining site’s closure, while the company that operates there disputed the study’s findings.

At issue is a 140-page report about groundwater effects at the Sand Land facility, which was released by the Suffolk County Department of Health Services on June 29.

Some organizers and lawmakers hailed the report as confirmation of their concerns at a news conference in Sag Harbor on Friday, during which they called for the state to shut down the 50-acre site.

“Finally, the county has verified this contamination beyond a shadow of a doubt,” said Adrienne Esposito, executive director of Citizens Campaign for the Environment, after the news conference. She added that the facility’s permit to operate is up for renewal in November.

The health services department installed 21 monitoring wells and collected 83 groundwater samples, four surface water samples, four soil samples and 10 samples of vegetative material at the site, where sand is mined. The company, located at 585 Middle Line Hwy., has also been mulching and composting waste there.

The agency found “the vegetative waste management activities on the Sand Land site have had significant adverse impacts to the groundwater.”

In particular, the report said, groundwater samples showed elevated levels of manganese and iron in drinking water, adding that “manganese exceeded the standards by almost 100 times and iron by over 200 times.”

The report did not alert residents to avoid drinking the water and recommended further monitoring and testing by appropriate regulatory agencies.

“We called on the governor [Andrew M. Cuomo] and [County Executive Steve] Bellone to shut it down and clean it up," Esposito said. "There’s no reason to give another five-year permit to a facility that’s polluting the groundwater.”

Esposito appeared with Assemb. Fred Thiele (I-Sag Harbor), Suffolk Legis. Bridget Fleming (D-Noyack), Group for the East End President Bob DeLuca and Noyac Civic Council President Elena Loretto.

In a statement, state Department of Environmental Conservation spokesman Sean Mahar said the agency is "carefully evaluating this report as part of our ongoing efforts to protect water quality on Long Island."

"From historic investments in the $2.5 billion Clean Water Infrastructure Act and $300 million Environmental Protection Fund to enacting strong regulations of mulch facilities for the first time, and numerous other ongoing initiatives, we are committed to protecting Long Island’s water resources," Mahar said.

Brian Matthews, an attorney for Wainscott Sand & Gravel of Bridgehampton, which owns the Sand Land facility, said the health department’s study came to different conclusions than the company’s experts, who found no causal link between contamination and the operations at the facility.

“The testing conducted by Sand Land’s experts reveals that the directional flow of the groundwater is different than what the County claimed and confirms that any elevated levels found through the County’s testing are not related to any activities at the site,” the firm said in a statement issued by Matthews.

The company’s statement noted that, “The lack of any such correlation is also established by the fact that every one of the private wells the SCHDS identified as being downgradient from the site ‘met all drinking water standards.’ ”

The report recommended that the DEC continue to monitor the site and make certain all laws are followed while determining whether the vegetative waste management, specifically composting and mulching, are allowable.

“I think the report clearly demonstrates that there’s been substantial contamination of the groundwater with iron and manganese at 100 and 200 times the drinking water standard,” Thiele said. “It is equally clear that Sand Land is responsible for this contamination. This report documents it chapter and verse.”


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