Southampton Town and other local representatives are taking the state Department of Environmental Conservation to court over a settlement that could allow a Noyac sand mine, which a Suffolk County study showed had negatively impacted groundwater, to operate for eight more years.
The town, Assemb. Fred W. Thiele Jr. (I-Sag Harbor) and several community organizations, environmental groups and neighbors filed a petition in state Supreme Court in Albany on Wednesday seeking to overturn a settlement between the DEC and Sand Land.
Local leaders are hoping a state judge will grant a restraining order prohibiting any activity at the site following a hearing in Albany.
“If the judge looked at the evidence, the groundwater contamination, the neighbors’ concerns, how could we possibly keep this open another 10 years,” said Adrienne Esposito, executive director of Citizens Campaign for the Environment, one of the petitioners in the case. “The DEC decision defies logic. It is really inexplicable what happened here.”
The DEC in September denied a renewal for Sand Land’s mining permit, which was set to expire in November 2018. The state agency announced on March 15 it had reached an agreement that would allow the operation to continue for eight years and permit the mine to expand 40 feet deeper but require reclamation of the site in 10 years. The decision surprised environmentalists, civic leaders and elected officials.
DEC officials have said the agreement prohibits the company from accepting new vegetative waste at the site, prevents horizontal expansion of the mine, institutes a groundwater monitoring program, and provides additional financial security to ensure the mine is reclaimed within a decade.
"While DEC cannot comment on pending litigation, our comprehensive settlement has put this facility on the path to closure and secured the most stringent and aggressive oversight and protection of water quality over any facility of its kind in New York State," a DEC spokesman said.
The petition claims the settlement does allow Sand Land to widen the mine by referencing a 34.5-acre area, when previous permits have been issued for a 31.5-acre area.
Including three additional acres “without any statement or explanation for the change in its position is arbitrary, capricious, and a violation of law,” the petition states.
Sand Land representatives, who have repeatedly denied any groundwater contamination claims, could not be reached for comment.