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Oct 9, 2018 3:48 PMPublication: The Southampton Press

State Allows Local Governments To Expand Water Quality Monitoring Of Sand Mines

Sand Land, a Noyac sand mine and mulch-composting business. PRESS FILE
Oct 9, 2018 3:58 PM

State officials approved legislation last week giving local municipalities the right to monitor groundwater at sand mines, both during mining and reclamation, in Nassau and Suffolk counties.

The bill, sponsored by State Assemblyman Fred W. Thiele Jr. and State Senator Kenneth P. LaValle, allows for the enactment and enforcement of water quality testing laws by the counties and encompassing towns and villages—a job typically only done by officials at the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation.

The legislation passed both houses of the State Legislature and was signed into law by Governor Andrew Cuomo on October 2.

“This new law will provide the tools necessary to examine, evaluate and protect the quality of our drinking water,” Mr. LaValle said.

Although the DEC is still responsible for monitoring and regulating sand mines, Mr. Thiele said the law was necessary to provide “an extra level of protection” to the East End’s underground drinking water.

“We get our drinking water from a sole source aquifer. It comes from under our feet,” Mr. Thiele said on Tuesday afternoon. “The importance of this legislation is we can find out early whether or not there are any potential water quality issues. Towns and villages and the state and county can be proactive if there is a potential problem.”

Mr. Thiele noted that the approval of the law was partially, although not entirely, fueled by recent activities at Sand Land, a Noyac sand mine and mulch-composting business that has been accused of polluting the groundwater.

The Suffolk County Legislature mandated water testing at the 50-acre Middle Line Highway site in 2015, but a lengthy court process delayed the investigation by nearly two years. The study, just released by the Suffolk County Department of Health Services in July, found elevated levels of chemicals and contaminants in Sand Land’s groundwater.

Today, both DEC and Southampton Town officials continue to take steps to shut down the mine. Although last month the DEC demanded that mining operations cease—proposing a permit modification changing Sand Land’s current mining permit to a reclamation permit—the facility’s attorneys are now appealing that decision.

“There’s still a long way to go,” Mr. Thiele said. “It’s very important that the DEC made the decision that they did but it wasn’t the end, it was maybe the beginning of the end of this saga.” Had a law like this already been in place, Mr. Thiele said “we might have found out about the contamination much earlier.”

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