The Noyac Civic Council has received word from Representative Lee Zeldin’s office that the Environmental Protection Agency is looking into the Sand Land mine in Noyac as a possible Superfund site. Eight days after the group was notified, the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation publicly posted Sand Land’s latest request for changes to its permit.
“The E.P.A.’s regional office team is still working on finding more information, and has been coordinating with [the D.E.C.] to learn more,” Mark Woolley, Mr. Zeldin’s district director, said in an email to the Noyac Civic Council on Jan. 7. He described it as “positive news that you can share with the civic members and impacted residents. We have E.P.A. working on this matter, including their Superfund division.”
According to the E.P.A.’s Superfund website, “Thousands of contaminated sites exist nationally due to hazardous waste being dumped, left out in the open, or otherwise improperly managed. These sites include manufacturing facilities, processing plants, landfills, and mining sites.”
Groundwater tests performed at Sand Land by the Suffolk County Department of Health Services in October of 2017 showed levels of manganese, iron, thallium, ammonia, and gross alpha that were above limits established by the E.P.A. However, more recent tests, drawn from monitoring wells at Sand Land, showed the water was within normal parameters, and Sand Land’s attorney, Brian Matthews, has disputed the validity of the earlier tests.
Litigation brought against the D.E.C. and Sand Land collectively by the Town of Southampton, the Noyac Civic Council, Group for the East End, and Citizens Campaign for the Environment, among others, is making its way through the state court system.
Through a spokesperson, Mr. Zeldin said yesterday that he was “eager to elevate this to the E.P.A. for Superfund site consideration in utilizing all options to provide Noyac residents relief, and I look forward to the results of the E.P.A.’s review.”
According to Mr. Matthews, about 30 years ago there was an inquiry into Sand Land as a possible Superfund site, but the E.P.A. and D.E.C. ultimately cleared the mine to continue its normal operations. “We just want to make it very clear that this property has never been a Superfund site at any time. . . . In 1989, that assessment found ‘no reason to suspect hazardous waste’ and the property was formally delisted,” Mr. Matthews said yesterday. “Any discussion about the potential of this property or the need for this property to be a Superfund site seems to be simply uninformed about this history. That discussion also seems to be uninformed by the ongoing groundwater sampling and monitoring that is required as part of Sand Land’s latest D.E.C. mining permit.”
The Noyac Civic Council was elated to learn of the E.P.A. inquiry through Mr. Zeldin’s office. “I’m happy that someone is looking into the water contamination issue,” said Elena Loreto, the group’s president. “The D.E.C. has ignored it and that’s why we’re happy. Maybe this will push them to take some action. . . . No matter how many times I’ve contacted them, written to them, no one wants to come talk to us. No one wants to address the contamination. What’s going on? Now that they are working with the E.P.A., according to this email, maybe it will help them get off their backsides and do something.” The D.E.C did not return a request for comment yesterday.
Sand Land’s latest application, dated Jan. 15, is “to recognize importation of finished products,” such as crushed stone, crushed concrete aggregate, and compost created off-site from yard trimmings, to be able to “create salable aggregate products and sand-based soils.” The new application also seeks permission to remove the previous provision, “allowing vegetative waste to be brought to the site for reclamation purposes. All future reclamation will be done using loam that already exists on the site.”
According to the permit application, the D.E.C. has already determined the change “will not have a significant impact on the environment,” a statement known as a “negative declaration” under the State Environmental Quality Review Act.
According to D.E.C. inspection reports, on Dec. 20, 2019, Sand Land received a visit from a state enforcement coordinator “to confirm crushed stone, crushed concrete product and vegetative waste [have] been removed . . . in accordance to the notice of violation. Inspection revealed all materials had been removed.” At least two prior inspection visits noted the presence of crushed stone and materials that were “contrary to the current permit condition No. 6, ‘no importing or processing off-site materials.’ ”
Mr. Matthews declined to discuss the pending application.
A comment period on Sand Land’s new application is open through Feb. 14. Those wishing to share their opinions can send written correspondence to Mary A. Mackinnon, N.Y.S.D.E.C. Region 1 Headquarters, SUNY at Stony Brook, 50 Circle Road in Stony Brook 11790. Comments can also be emailed to [email protected].