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Sand Land Corp. mine site will stop accepting debris, state tells activists

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

The Sand Land Corp. site in Noyack will no longer accept debris for processing by next month, according to a state letter, a step the town called encouraging but far from the final resolution in a nearly 10-year battle.

Wainscott Sand & Gravel of Bridgehampton, which owns the Sand Land site, will stop accepting “brush, vegetative waste, concrete, brick, asphalt, and any other masonry debris” as of Sept. 1, state Department of Environmental Conservation commissioner Basil Seggos said in a letter dated Thursday.

John Tintle, owner of Wainscott Sand & Gravel, has also committed to clean up any such material from the site by Oct. 31 and not try to renew his solid waste registration after that, Seggos said.

Southampton Town and civic and environmental groups called the development an encouraging but modest development.

If Tintle follows through, “The use will be narrowed down to the sand mining use,” which the DEC regulates, said Southampton Town Attorney James Burke.

The letter, sent to the Group for the East End, the Noyac Civic Council, and Citizens Campaign for the Environment, responded to concerns about violations and other issues that the advocates wrote to Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo about on Aug. 7. The DEC said the mine’s agreement to stop processing debris “should go a long way toward satisfying the issues raised in your letter.”

Though Group for the East End president Bob DeLuca said he appreciated the DEC’s letter, he said he wanted to see more action.

“From our standpoint, the state has not shown the kind of leadership needed,” DeLuca said. “The state needs to shut the facility down and not renew any permits.”

Sand Land is a repeat offender, he said. “There’s a real trust problem here.”

He and Adrienne Esposito, executive director of Citizens Campaign for the Environment, said no new mining permit should be granted. The only sand left is below allowed depths, DeLuca said.

“Why would you give a facility that’s been identified as polluting the groundwater a new permit?” Esposito said.

The DEC said it would have a “rigorous review” of any permit renewal.

Neither an attorney for Wainscott Sand & Gravel nor a company official were available for comment.

Much remains uncertain after the DEC letter, including a pending appeal of Sand Land’s bid to expand sand mining, how contaminant cleanup will be handled, and the future of the 50-acre site.

Sand Land has long fought to expand the mine and crush trees, asphalt, brick and concrete there. But the mine sits over the South Fork aquifer, where land use is tightly regulated to protect the East End’s drinking water.

In April, a state appellate court ruled the mine is “subject to local regulation and to enforcement through the criminal process.” Southampton has ticketed Sand Land for bringing in construction debris and other activities, Burke said.

Referring to the DEC letter, he said: “We feel that this is a positive direction for the facility . . . that they are going to be complying with not only the court order but the town code.”

A June 29 report by the Suffolk County Department of Health Services found “the vegetative waste management activities on the Sand Land site have had significant adverse impacts to the groundwater.” Samples of groundwater showed elevated levels of manganese and iron in drinking water, it said, adding that “manganese exceeded the standards by almost 100 times and iron by over 200 times.”

In July, Wainscott Sand & Gravel attorney Brian Matthews said the company’s experts found no causal link between contamination and the mine’s operations.

The DEC, in a statement, said it “is in receipt of groundwater data but has not yet completed its review to determine what impacts may be attributable to solid waste management at the site.”

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