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Sand Land Corporation Permit Modification

Permit Modification

Sand Land Corporation submitted a permit modification request to DEC to continue to mine sand and gravel from 34.5 acres of a 34.5-acre Life of Mine (LOM) on a 50-acre property. Within the 34.5-acre LOM, the final mine floor elevation will be changed from the current elevation of 160 feet amsl to elevation 120 feet amsl (40-foot deepening). At cessation of mining, the site will be reclaimed to open meadow for equestrian or agricultural use. The project is located at Middle Line Highway, Bridgehampton, Town of Southampton, NY.

Sand Land Corp Mined Land Reclamation Permit, 6/5/19 (PDF)

Response to Comments

The application for modification was noticed in the Environmental Notice Bulletin on March 20, 2019 with a public comment period through April 19, 2019. DEC received, and agreed to, a request to extend the comment period through May 3, 2019. A summary of the comments received during this comment period is listed below and includes NYSDEC's response to each of these comments.

  1. Potential for groundwater contamination
    The vast majority of the comment letters focused on this topic. Almost all the letters concerning groundwater reference the Suffolk County Department of Health Services' final report titled "Investigation of Potential Impacts to Groundwater at Wainscott Sand & Gravel/Sand Land Facility 585 Middle Line Highway, Noyack, N.Y." dated June 29, 2018 (Report). The Report concluded that vegetative organic waste management (VOWM) activities at the site have had adverse impacts to the groundwater, in particular through increased levels of manganese and iron. The Report makes no mention of any adverse impacts associated with the mining activities. In addition, the report states that "all of the private wells that have been sampled in the current survey have met all drinking water standards, and have not indicated any VOWM related water quality impacts."

    The February 21, 2019 settlement agreement between the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation and the Sand Land Corporation (Agreement) requires that "Sand Land will permanently cease the use of the Facility for the receipt, storage, and processing of any volume of VOWM." In addition, the Agreement required Sand Land to formally surrender the facility's Part 360 Registration that had allowed them to crush and process concrete debris and collect, store and process VOWM at the site. The permit modification prohibits the processing of any VOWM onsite. A minimal amount of topsoil or mulch may be stockpiled onsite for purposes of reclamation of the facility, which is consistent with mine sites throughout Suffolk County and NY State. In addition, the facility is required to conduct quarterly groundwater monitoring and to pay for a third-party monitor, approved by DEC, to supplement the Department's oversite of the facility.

    The Report results, and similar studies done in Suffolk County, have associated impacts to groundwater quality with VOWM activities. As the facility will no longer be doing VOWM, the associated potential threat to groundwater should be ameliorated. Neither NYSDEC nor SCDHS have documented any impacts to groundwater associated with sand and gravel mining facilities on Long Island.

    DEC has approximately twenty years of sampling data from three mine sites in Suffolk County that are mining in the water table, as well as from several mine sites at varying elevations above the water table. At these mine sites, monitoring wells are in multiple locations around the property to capture groundwater coming onto and leaving the sites. This is designed to show what, if any, changes to water quality occur because of onsite mining. These data have not shown any impacts to groundwater quality associated with mining activities.

    Historically, there were 73 sand and gravel mine sites throughout Long Island, mostly in Suffolk County. There are still 23 active mines. SCDHS has been conducting water quality analyses on groundwater, from public and private wells, since at least the 1970's. Many of the wells tested are in close proximity to sand and gravel mine sites. To date, Suffolk County public water supply wells and private water wells tested by SCDHS (including those near Sand Land) have not indicated any impacts to groundwater quality that can be associated with sand and gravel mining activities.

    DEC believes that the cessation of VOWM at Sand Land will ensure the protection of the groundwater resource at this site even with ongoing mining activities. Frequent groundwater monitoring will provide validation that groundwater is being protected.

  2. The discrepancy between 31.5 and 34.5 life of mine acreage and concerns about buried vegetation in the SW corner of the mine
    The three-acre difference is due to an area in the SW corner of the mine called the "stump dump." This three-acre area was mined in the 1960's and later tree stumps were buried there. This mining and burying of stumps pre-dated both the 1975 Mined Land Reclamation Law, which regulates mining and DEC's Part 360 regulations governing disposal of vegetative waste. Mining here also pre-dated the Town of Southampton's zoning regulations. The three acres should have been included in the life of mine acreage, in all past site descriptions and plans for permitting, but was left out as it was not being actively mined. It was however, inspected as part of the mine site by DEC over the years.

    Sand Land's current application for a permit modification includes this three-acre area, as it is within the pre-existing non-conforming footprint, but eliminates the additional 1.9-acre horizontal expansion that was sought in the previously denied 2014 modification application.

    Nearly all the stumps have already been removed from the stump dump area, but the inclusion of the three-acre stump dump will allow Sand Land to make sure any remaining buried stumps are taken out and disposed of properly and in accordance with Part 360 regulations. Sand Land will also be required to reclaim the stump dump area at cessation of mining.

  3. There is no more sand left to mine under the original active permit
    Part of the justification for the Department Initiated Modification, which had proposed cessation of mining, was that there were inadequate reserves of sand remaining in the permitted life of mine to justify a renewed permit. When the operator provided an up to date survey, Department staff were able to confirm that around 95,000 cubic yards of material remained to be mined in the life of mine area.

  4. The Sand Land site has violations including too steep slopes and mining onto adjoining properties
    The violations were resolved with an Order on Consent in November 2016 that required Sand Land to reclaim the effected slopes and assessed a $100,000 penalty ($65,000 of which was payable). The Reclamation Plan required by that Order has been implemented.

  5. The ALJ determined that the proposed modification and 4.9-acre expansion were not pre-existing/ non-conforming under Town zoning. Why did the DEC reverse its denial decision?
    The 2014 modification application included a 1.9-acre horizontal expansion of the life of mine footprint. This expansion triggered the need for a letter of concurrence from the Town. The new application stays within the 34.5-acre life of mine and pre-existing, non-conforming footprint. Sand Land has agreed to no longer accept or process VOWM at the site, which was also a component of the 2014 modification application. These two important differences influence DEC's decision on the current proposal to modify the permit.

  6. SEQRA was not done properly
    DEC disagrees. When Sand Land proposed the more expansive modification that included a 1.9-acre expansion as well as continued VOWM, DEC took a "hard look" at the proposal and based on State Environmental Quality Review (SEQR) requirements, issued a negative declaration. Changes Sand Land made to the proposal in 2019 included no horizontal expansion and discontinuation of VOWM, which reduced the scale of the proposal from that considered in 2014. DEC evaluated these changes to the proposal and issued an amended negative declaration under SEQR.

  7. There was no transparency in the settlement, done behind closed doors
    DEC negotiated a comprehensive agreement with Sand Land that resolved several matters. Unlike the permitting process, DEC is not under any legal obligation to conduct settlement negotiations publicly. The DEC took previous public comments on Sand Land into account when settling the matter. Through this negotiation with the mine operator, DEC secured several agreements that increased oversight and protection of environmental resources that are above and beyond those normally contained in permit conditions. Through the Agreement DEC also obtained a commitment from Sand Land to cease mining in eight years and have the mine fully reclaimed in 10 years.

  8. Need to hold public hearing
    DEC reviewed the comments submitted and determined that a public hearing was not necessary.

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