The New York State Department of Environmental Conservation on Friday announced the Sand Land mine in Noyac will cease its operations within eight years, take immediate action to protect water quality in the area, and complete reclamation work within ten years as part of a new settlement reached with the operator of the mine.
According to the DEC, the settlement “immediately stops the acceptance of vegetated waste to protect water quality; requires implementation of an extensive groundwater monitoring program; prevents any horizontal expansion of the mine; [and] substantially increases the amount of financial security posted by the mine.” It also mandates an independent third-party monitor to oversee the mine’s operations.
“New York State will continue our aggressive on-the-ground oversight to ensure Sand Land complies with all rules and regulations and to ensure that its operations do not threaten the environment, especially our precious groundwater resource,” DEC commissioner Basil Seggos said in a statement.
In September of 2018, the DEC announced its intent to “modify” Sand Land’s permit to operate, which many people took as a sign the mine would have to close almost immediately. Just about a year ago, local elected officials and environmental activists made public county testing results of surface waters and groundwater at Sand Land that showed the presence of the heavy metal manganese at 87 times the state threshold of 300 parts per billion, as well as elevated levels of cobalt, lead and arsenic.
The DEC said Friday the settlement resolves three ongoing permit issues pertaining to Sand Land, which is operated by the Wainscott Sand and Gravel Corporation: a proposal by the mine to dig deeper and expand into a wider swath of land; Sand Land’s new bid to renew its DEC permit altogether; and the DEC’s effort to force Sand Land to stop mining operations and begin reclamation.
The terms of the settlement say Sand Land may dig no deeper than 40 more feet, and may not expand horizontally at all. According to the DEC, Sand Land has submitted a new mining permit renewal that reflects all of the settlement terms, which will be made available to the public for review and comment beginning March 20.
“After reviewing all applicable public comments, DEC will make a determination whether to issue the permit,” the agency said in a statement.
Sand Land’s owner, John Tintle, could not immediately be reached for comment.
New York State Assemblyman Fred W. Thiele Jr. on Monday denounced the settlement as a closed-door deal that “reversed field” on the DEC’s previous intentions.
“Sand Land is a proven polluter and a lawbreaker,” Mr. Thiele said in a statement that cited a Suffolk County Department of Health Services report that “conclusively” demonstrated groundwater contamination at the mine. He called for the mine to close “now, not in 2027.”
“The polluter was rewarded,” Mr. Thiele said. “…The level of public interest is high and the environmental stakes for the community are even higher. The proposed settlement must not be rubber-stamped, but must be subjected to the most stringent environmental review required by law.”
Elena Loreto, president of the Noyac Civic Council, which has been outspoken against Sand Land, said she was disappointed to hear the news.
“Three governmental agencies identified contamination, stated there is no more sand to mine and said that mining sand is illegal in Southampton, yet the DEC says they can mine for 8 more years,” Ms. Loreto said. “How does this continued activity at Sand Land protect our sole-source aquifer? I am appalled.”