Assemblyman Fred W. Thiele Jr. this week announced that he had introduced legislation aimed at protecting groundwater from contamination by imposing a moratorium on mining in designated groundwater protection areas, where either the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation or a county health department has determined that the mine operations have caused or have contributed to contamination of the water supply.
In a press release, Mr. Thiele said he had introduced the measure after Governor Andrew Cuomo late in 2020 vetoed “sensible legislation” passed by both houses of the State Legislature that would have given local governments on Long Island shared jurisdiction with the state over sand mining within their boundaries. That legislation followed the recommendation of a Suffolk County grand jury on sand mining and illegal dumping, issued in 2019. The shared jurisdiction would have been similar to that currently exercised by local municipalities and the state for wetlands protection, Mr. Thiele said.
In his veto, the governor directed the DEC, in consultation with the State Department of Health, to study the impacts of sand mining on the groundwater on Long Island and issue its findings to the public within three years.
That would fail to address the immediate concerns of East End towns that have challenged state mining approvals issued by the DEC that do not consider local laws and regulations aimed at protecting the environment, the release stated.
Mr. Thiele’s new legislation would place a moratorium on mining at sites where the DEC or a local health department had documented contamination that exceeded state or federal drinking water or groundwater standards. It would be deemed repealed three years after taking effect to coincide with the findings of the state’s study.
The legislation would appear to be aimed at the Sand Land mine off Millstone Road in Noyac, where the Suffolk County Department of Health Services said water tests had shown elevated levels of harmful chemicals. Sand Land has provided its own water tests, based on federal Environmental Protection Agency findings, which contradict the county’s findings. The company has received a permit from the DEC to continue mining the 50-acre site.
“The hundreds of millions of dollars being spent to reverse the trend of declining water quality are a wasted investment if, at the same time, polluters are permitted to conduct business as usual,” Mr. Thiele said in the release. “Enactment of this legislation would not pose any threat to the operation of responsible sand mines that are critical to Long Island’s economy. The only negative impact would be borne by polluters that compromise our most precious natural resource and our public health. I look forward to working toward the passage of this legislation and, once again, fighting on behalf of all Long Islanders to ensure access to safe drinking water.”