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Has Noyac Mine’s Clock Run Out?

Thu, 02/08/2024 - 11:54
The excavated area as seen on a foggy morning in January 2024.
Christine Sampson

Sand Land, a mine in Noyac that has been the subject of litigation and controversy for several years, appears to have ceased digging at its Middle Line Highway site and has relocated its retail operation to a facility on Montauk Highway in Wainscott.

The Sag Harbor Express first reported its apparent closure on Jan. 24, saying that the business had sent a letter to its retail customers announcing its move to Wainscott. Neither John Tintle, who owns Sand Land, nor his attorney, Greg Brown, responded to The Star’s request for comment.

Since then, the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation confirmed by email to The Star that on Dec. 18 it told the mine the agency could not process the latest permit application unless the mine provided proof that Southampton Town allows mining as a pre-existing, nonconforming use, adding, “No proof has been submitted.”

The mine was established in the 1960s, when Southampton did not prohibit mining. The town, however, has since adopted a code that prohibits it, so Sand Land’s operations are considered a pre-existing, nonconforming use not subject to expansion.

State inspection records show that during a Nov. 30 visit by a D.E.C. representative, Mr. Tintle said he anticipated “being done excavating/removing material from the stump dump by the end of 2023.” The “stump dump” was an area where Sand Land had begun accepting vegetative waste for the purpose of mulching, which was not a permitted use under a previous D.E.C. approval.

During that Nov. 30 visit, the inspector noted that the mine’s 2013 permit was still in effect. As of Tuesday afternoon, the D.E.C.’s database listed Sand Land as “active.” But Assemblyman Fred W. Thiele Jr., who has long been critical of the mine, said by phone last week that “at the moment, I guess the conclusion is they’re closed. But whether or not that is a permanent condition still remains to be seen.”

In September, Justice James H. Ferreira of the Albany Supreme Court struck down a May 2020 permit extension that the D.E.C. had granted Sand Land.

Now, based on the court’s decisions and the current permit, no mining is authorized in the “life of mine,” or permitted mining area, which is 31.5 acres, not including the other four-plus acres of the stump-dump area. Sand Land’s opponents have already accused it of digging 40 feet below what the 2013 permit allowed, removing more than 400,000 cubic yards of sand “that should be serving as the filter for our precious drinking water,” Mr. Thiele, along with colleagues in the Assembly and State Senate, wrote in a letter to the governor on Sept. 27.

Ryan Murphy, who heads Southampton Town’s Code Enforcement Department, said by email yesterday that he personally went to check on the site recently. He “did not observe any activity in the mine area or adjacent areas.”

“I observed several private automobiles on site near the office trailer. I cannot really speak to anything other than those observations, which only represent a snapshot in time, unfortunately,” he said.

“Like any landowner,” Mr. Thiele told The Star, “they still would have the ability to go to the town, to the zoning board of appeals, to try to expand their operation. They still have options, so I can’t say tomorrow or six months or a year from now they might not make an application to the town.”

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