DEC Orders $1.3 Million Penalty for Illegal Mining, One of Largest Penalties in State History – Portion of Penalty Dedicated to the Protection of Long Island’s Sole Source Aquifer
Albany NY (3/14/2019) – New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) Commissioner Basil Seggos today announced that the state has executed an Order on Consent with BlueGreen Farms, Inc., LLC, for the operation of an unlawful mining operation in Yaphank, Suffolk County, New York. The order includes one of the largest mining penalties in New York State history-$1,350,000.
Commissioner Seggos said, “New York’s stringent rules and regulations governing mining operations exist to ensure the protection of our irreplaceable natural resources. Illegal sand mining not only robs the people of Long Island of these precious resources, if done improperly, it can cause irreparable harm to our environment. New York State will continue our aggressive, on-the-ground oversight to ensure every facility complies with applicable rules and regulations and that their operations do not threaten the environment, especially Long Island’s precious sole source aquifer.”
BlueGreen Farms, Inc., began removing sand and gravel in 2010 to develop a hydroponic greenhouse facility to raise fish and agricultural crops. The proposed facility was to be located north of Horseblock Road and west of Grucci Lane in Yaphank. Mining as part of a construction project is exempt from DEC’s jurisdiction, and no permits or DEC oversight are required. In addition, this facility has an agreement with the town of Brookhaven to excavate approximately 4.5 million cubic yards of sand in the first phase of its multi-phase plan. The agreement limited this activity to a specified 67 acres of the site.
During the excavation process, millions of cubic yards of sand were mined from the property. Although concrete foundations for the greenhouse were poured in 2013 and mineral extraction continued following the initial development, no further development has taken place. In 2016, DEC received a complaint about the site, indicating the company was mining sand outside of the allotted area agreed to by the town. DEC investigators determined that more than 200,000 yards of sand and gravel had been mined outside of the designated 67-acre area without a DEC mining permit, within feet of the water table, and on privately owned property. In November 2017, DEC issued Notices of Violations to BlueGreen Farms, including:
Allowing mining of more than 200,000 cubic yards of bank run sand and gravel at the site and adjacent parcels without a permit;
Failing to submit a mined land-use plan;
Failure to submit a reclamation bond to DEC to ensure proper reclamation of the mined area once mining is complete; and
Failure to remit the annual regulatory fee to DEC for mining activities at the site and adjacent parcels.
BlueGreen Farms, pursuant to DEC’s Order on Consent, has been assessed a total penalty of $1,350,000, with a payable amount of $125,000 and $625,000 suspended upon compliance with the order. BlueGreen Farms is also required to contribute $600,000 for an Environmental Benefit Fund Project (EBP), contributing to the United States Geological Survey-New York Water Science Center Long Island Groundwater Study.
BlueGreen Farms will also be required to complete a reclamation plan to ensure the site is closed properly.
About the Long Island Groundwater Study:
The Long Island Groundwater Study is an ongoing study led by the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) and DEC. This study is a multi-year project that aims to create an updated and enhanced regional groundwater-flow modeling tool for the use of multiple municipalities and water-resources management partners throughout Long Island. The tool will enable participants to collaboratively manage the region’s groundwater resources and address concerns such as over-pumping, saltwater intrusion, plume migration, and numerous other groundwater modeling conditions.
To learn more about this study, visit the DEC and USGS websites.