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Middle Highway Sand Mining Suspended

Thu, 10/07/2021 - 12:14

East Hampton Town scored a victory in State Supreme Court on Monday when its request for a temporary injunction against a local sand mine was granted.

The ruling, by Associate Justice William G. Ford, means that the mine, Sand Highway L.L.C., on Middle Highway in East Hampton, must stop digging for two weeks while it and the State Department of Environmental Conservation augment their case. In 2020, the D.E.C. issued a permit allowing Sand Highway to dig 110 feet below the groundwater level and create a 6.05-acre artificial lake, prompting East Hampton Town to take legal action.

Opponents of sand mining say that the practice strips away protective layers of earth that filter pollutants from water that reaches the aquifer, Long Island’s only source of drinking water.

In May, the state court system’s Appellate Division, Second Department, upheld Sand Highway’s new permit, but the very next day, a higher court, the Appellate Division, Third Department, struck down a 2019 D.E.C. permit for Sand Land, a pre-existing, nonconforming business in a residential area in Noyac, where Southampton Town zoning regulations prohibit such activities.

In late September, East Hampton Town sought permission to reargue its case against Sand Highway, and won.

“The town will continue this critical effort to protect our community’s drinking water supply,” Supervisor Peter Van Scoyoc said in a statement. Bond, Schoeneck, and King, the upstate law firm representing Sand Highway, could not be reached for comment by press time this week.

In other news, in light of the May ruling annulling Sand Land’s mining permit, as well as a decision by the state attorney general and D.E.C. not to pursue an appeal of that decision, two state legislators have called for closing the Noyac mine and forcing it to begin land reclamation.

Assemblyman Fred W. Thiele Jr. and State Senator Anthony Palumbo wrote in a joint letter to the D.E.C. that “without enforcement of the Appellate Division decision by your department, your decision is incomplete.”

“Our constituents rightfully question how Sand Land, without a valid permit, continues to operate since May in the face of the Appellate Division decision,” Mr. Thiele and Mr. Palumbo wrote. “They see robust State D.E.C. enforcement when a residential wetlands permit is violated or a commercial fishing quota exceeded, but Sand Land continues to thumb its nose at the Appellate Division decision, while the State D.E.C. stands idly by.”

In a statement to The Star, the D.E.C. said it was “reviewing the legislators’ letter.”

This story has been updated since it was first published to clarify the courts' rulings.

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