The failure of Southampton Town to obtain an immediate restraining order to stop Wainscott Sand and Gravel from processing landscaping debris and selling mulch and top soil at the Sand Land sand mine in Noyac, while a setback in the town’s efforts to bring the site into compliance, is not the end of the world.
The town went to state Supreme Court in Riverhead two weeks ago in an effort to convince Justice Denise Molia to enforce a March 30 state Appellate Division that found the operations to be an illegal expansion of the once isolated industrial site that now finds itself surrounded by homes.
That decision reversed an earlier court ruling that had sided with Sand Land in its decade-long fight with the town and neighbors who have grown ever more concerned that the operation posed a serious threat to the groundwater.
Since the mine sits atop the sole source aquifer serving the South Fork, those concerns are very real — especially since a recent study found heightened groundwater contamination at similar sites elsewhere in Suffolk County.
But Justice Molia instead agreed to set a June 3 hearing on the town’s request and simultaneously hear Sand Land’s argument that it be given a six-month window to wind down its operations. Part of the rationale behind that request is sure to be the fact the town encouraged Sand Land to get into the mulching and composting business in the first place. For the past several years, even as the town sought to shut the operation in court, it continued to send the tons upon tons of leaves and brush it was collecting at town transfer stations to the facility for processing.
While six months may be an overly generous agreement, it seems only fair to give Sand Land a reasonable amount of time to remove the material it has amassed at the site. If, on the other hand, Sand Land continues to take in brush and other vegetative debris, as some observers charge it has, the town has no choice but to do everything within its power to halt the operation.