The state Department of Environmental Conservation has ordered mining to stop at the Sand Land Corp. site in Noyack — where a Suffolk County report issued in June found elevated metal levels in the groundwater — in a decision lauded by civic leaders, elected officials and environmentalists.
A letter dated Sept. 10 from the DEC to Sand Land owner John Tintle amending the company’s mining permit, which is set to expire on Nov. 4, states mining must stop and reclamation, or returning the land to its natural state, must begin on the 50-acre site in a state-designated Special Groundwater Protection Area.
Mining must stop by Sept. 27 if no appeal is filed.
“This is great news because it sends a message and sets a precedent for other sand mines operating in a way that pollutes groundwater,” said Adrienne Esposito, executive director of Citizens Campaign for the Environment. “This site has serious groundwater contamination, and that should not be tolerated.”
Brian Matthews, an attorney representing the company, which is owned by Wainscott Sand and Gravel of Bridgehampton, said Sand Land plans to appeal the decision and declined to say whether activity would resume during that process.
A DEC spokeswoman said it was the first time the agency sought to convert a mining permit to a reclamation permit, adding that the agency would take “all actions necessary to ensure the public and the environment are protected.”
A study released in June by the Suffolk County Department of Health Services found that mulching and composting practices at Sand Land caused serious adverse impacts to the groundwater. The report says manganese and iron levels were found to “significantly exceed” drinking water and groundwater standards in multiple wells. Manganese, which has been associated with neurological disorders, “exceeded standards by almost 100 times and iron by over 200 times,” the report states.
County Legis. Bridget Fleming (D-Noyack ) said the ruling represents the DEC’s recognition of the county’s findings.
“That report, without question, shows operation at the mine has polluted groundwater in a significant way,” she said, adding that the state should ensure the reclamation process doesn’t cause further contamination.
The county study called for testing private wells in the area, but Fleming said no samples to date have shown elevated metal levels in drinking wells. She said she plans to submit a letter to county Health Commissioner James Tomarken requesting that the county analyze potential future effects of the contaminated groundwater.
Tintle had agreed to stop accepting vegetative waste and construction debris for processing on the site following the release of the county report. That agreement narrowed the site’s use to sand mining, and the company would have needed to renew its five-year permit in November to continue that use. The DEC notes in its letter that the site has insufficient sand for mining and that what is left is in an area where organic waste was processed.
Future mining there would "have the potential to allow the release of contaminants in that area which could impact the local groundwater,” the letter states.