A panel of state Appellate Court Justices issued a ruling Wednesday that temporarily blocks a controversial Noyac sand mine from digging deeper than was previously allowed, a victory for environmentalists who fear the expansion could further contaminate groundwater.
The ruling prevents the Sand Land mine from digging 40 feet deeper than its previous boundary, as is allowed by a state Department of Conservation permit issued June 5. The added depth was granted to Sand Land under an agreement reached with the DEC in March that would have allowed the mine to operate for eight more years.
DEC officials have said the agreement prohibits the company from accepting new vegetative waste at the site, institutes a groundwater monitoring program and provides additional financial security to ensure the mine is reclaimed within a decade.
Environmentalists, town and state elected officials had sued the sand mining operation and the DEC in April to have the settlement overturned.
Citizens Campaign for the Environment executive director Adrienne Esposito said the ruling signals a judge should undertake a more substantive review of the proposed mine expansion.
“It’s a positive step on a long journey,” she said. “We’re happy to see the judge[s] drew a line in the sand.”
A ruling earlier this month also blocked the operation from expanding from 31.5 acres to 34.5 acres into an area known as the “Stump Dump.”
A study released by Suffolk County in June 2018 found elevated levels of manganese and iron in the groundwater and concluded it was from mulching and composting on the site. The facility is operated by Wainscott Sand & Gravel of Bridgehampton.
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 that 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.
"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 spokeswoman said Thursday. "DEC will continue to be a regular presence on the site and will take immediate action if any violations are found."