Operators of the Sand Land mine in Noyack have agreed to cease operations within eight years and implement several new actions to protect water quality, state Department of Environmental Conservation officials announced Friday.
DEC Commissioner Basil Seggos told Newsday the mining operation had agreed to conditions in a settlement addressing the facility’s operating permit that would place it on a path to closure.
The facility is operated by Wainscott Sand & Gravel of Bridgehampton.
The company has submitted a revised five-year mining permit application documenting the settlement’s terms. On Wednesday, the agency will make that application available for a 30-day public comment period. After comments are reviewed, the DEC will decide whether to grant the company the permit. The company will have to close the mine eight years from the date the permit is issued.
The conditions include Sand Land immediately no longer accepting vegetated waste to protect water quality and the implementation of an extensive groundwater monitoring program at the site.
As part of that program, Seggos said the DEC will begin next week sending drilling teams to the site as part of a study to monitor groundwater in the mine vicinity and detect any changes in groundwater quality that could be attributed to the mine or other sources. Seggos said that if the study finds that groundwater conditions are worse than initially believed, the agency could close the mining site at an “immediate” pace.
Sand Land is also prohibited from any horizontal expansion of the mine, with the site to undergo a complete reclamation in less than 10 years to ensure its return to productive use, Seggos said.
“There is nothing in the agreement that would prevent us from exercising our full authority, and we intend to aggressively oversee the process to make sure everything we outlined here is adhered to,” Seggos said.
The settlement also limits vertical expansion at the mine to no more than 40 feet and no greater than 100 feet above the water table, which DEC officials said are the strictest limitations the agency has enacted upon such a site. An independent third-party monitor will be chosen to oversee the mining operation, Seggos said.
Despite the agreement, Adrienne Esposito, executive director of Farmingdale-based Citizens Campaign for the Environment, said she found it “disturbing” that sand mining was still allowed at the site instead of its operators being forced to close it immediately.
“It’s upsetting that this settlement agreement happened without the town or the stakeholders involved and appears to be an undermining of any progress we made,” Esposito said.
Esposito was referring to a DEC order in September ordering Sand Land to cease mining in the wake of a June 2018 report by the Suffolk County Health Services Department that found elevated levels of manganese and iron in the groundwater at the site. The company is allowed to use the mine under State Administrative Review Act guidelines, DEC officials confirmed.
Brian Matthews, an East Hampton-based attorney representing the company, said Friday that the settlement is fair.
“In our view, the settlement strikes a balance between our client’s long-established rights to conduct mining on the property, the department’s obligation to ensure mining is done in a proper manner and everyone’s interest in ensuring that no groundwater contamination occurs at the site as a result of the operations,” he said.