Sand Land and D.E.C. Taken to Court
A coalition of 13 local advocacy groups, elected officials, and property owners took the State Department of Environmental Conservation and the Sand Land industrial mine to Albany County Supreme Court on Thursday and negotiated a two-week delay that will pause the D.E.C.’s controversial permit approval for expanded and deeper mining at the Noyac site until the end of the month.
The judge also extended the public comment period for the proposed settlement to April 30, when the parties will reconvene.
Judge Kimberly O’Connor did not grant the temporary injunction the 13-member coalition had requested until the lawsuit it filed on Wednesday against the D.E.C. and Sand Land, asking that the court void the proposed agreement, is complete. But Bob DeLuca of Group for the East End, one of the 13 parties that brought the litigation and sought the injunction on Thursday, said it was his understanding that some related cases against Sand Land and/or the D.E.C. that are already in the courts will be consolidated, probably under a Supreme Court judge other than Ms. O’Connor, before all sides meet again at the end of the month.
The Suffolk County Department of Health Services has found that Sand Land is releasing contaminants into the soil at the site. The mine sits over an aquifer vital to the East End water supply.
The coalition that filed the litigation this week is made up of the Town of Southampton, Assemblyman Fred W. Thiele Jr., the Group for the East End, the Noyac Civic Council, the Southampton Town Civic Coalition, Citizens Campaign for the Environment, Bridgehampton Road Races L.L.C. (owner of The Bridge golf club), and six other property owners.
Their lawsuit asks the court to throw out the March settlement the D.E.C. had reached with Sand Land that would permit its owners to mine another three acres, dig another 40 feet down, and remain open another eight years. That was a reversal of a decision by the D.E.C. late last year that would have led to the closure of the mine and remediation of the site by 2020.
Critics have blasted the settlement as “a backroom deal,” noting that it was privately negotiated between the D.E.C. and Sand Land after Sand Land appealed the D.E.C.’s ruling last fall.
Though the coalition didn’t get everything it was seeking on Thursday, Mr. DeLuca still characterized the court outcome as a positive step.
“I think the judge provided an opportunity that will be beneficial to all community stakeholders, as it will allow us to make the strongest possible case before the D.E.C. regarding the imposition of the proposed settlement and mine expansion, and reinforce the position that this bizarre proposal to expand a polluting industrial use directly over our aquifer is universally opposed by community and environmental organizations, local neighbors, the Town of Southampton, and our Assemblyman Fred Thiele,” Mr. DeLuca said.
Adrienne Esposito, executive director of Citizens Campaign for the Environment, said the case is simple: “The rationale is [Sand Land] already contaminated groundwater and therefore should not be able to continue this dangerous activity.”