Albany NY (3/15/2019) – New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) Commissioner Basil Seggos today announced that Sand Land, a mine in Bridgehampton, is required to cease mine operations within a maximum of eight years and implement several new actions to protect water quality as part of a legal settlement addressing this facility’s operating permit. The comprehensive settlement immediately stops the acceptance of vegetated waste to protect water quality; requires implementation of an extensive groundwater monitoring program; prevents any horizontal expansion of the mine; substantially increases the amount of financial security posted by the mine; and directs the mine to cease operations within eight years and complete reclamation in less than 10 years to ensure the site’s return to productive use.
In addition to DEC’s continued inspections and rigorous oversight, to ensure compliance with these requirements, a new independent third-party monitor will oversee mining operations.
“DEC listened to the concerns of the community and is requiring Sand Land to shut down operations in eight years and fully reclaim the mine within 10 years, as well as implement the most comprehensive monitoring and oversight program of its kind to protect the region’s water quality,” DEC Commissioner Seggos said. “New York State will continue our aggressive on-the-ground oversight to ensure Sand Land complies with all rules and regulations and to ensure that its operations do not threaten the environment, especially our precious groundwater resource.”
Today’s announcement is just the latest in DEC’s comprehensive actions to protect Long Island’s sole source aquifer, as recently demonstrated by DEC’s historic enforcement action against BlueGreen Farms for its illegal mining operation. The BlueGreen Farms Order on Consent included a $1.3 million penalty that is one of the largest penalties levied for illegal mining in state history. The company must contribute $600,000 of the penalty towards an Environmental Benefit Fund project supporting the United States Geological Survey-New York Water Science Center’s Long Island Groundwater Study.
The Sand Land settlement also builds upon other DEC measures taken by the company in response to an Order on Consent with DEC from November 2016 which required Sand Land to reclaim certain slopes and assessed a $100,000 penalty ($65,000 of which was payable). The settlement resolves three ongoing mining permit issues: a permit modification proposed by Sand Land to expand the mine horizontally and vertically; a renewal of Sand Land’s existing DEC permit; and a permit modification initiated by DEC to cease mining and begin reclamation. Negotiations resulted in a final agreement that requires:
Dependent on issuance of a five-year mining permit, the ceasing of mining operations within eight years and complete reclamation of the mine in no less than 10 years;
A $290,000 increase in the required financial security that could be used to close and reclaim the mine if the owner does not properly reclaim the mine. A total financial security of $380,000 has already been posted;
New protections for groundwater, including the already-completed surrender of Sand Land’s state solid waste registration, an immediate ban on the acceptance of any vegetative material, and the implementation of an extensive groundwater monitoring program;
Enhanced oversight by a new, on-site, independent monitor, in addition to DEC’s ongoing stringent regulatory oversight; and
A new prohibition on horizontal mine expansions and a permitted vertical expansion of no more than 40 additional feet, and no greater than 120 feet above sea level.
Sand Land has submitted a revised mining permit application documenting all of the terms of the settlement. DEC is making the application available for public review and comment March 20, 2019. After reviewing all applicable public comments, DEC will make a determination whether to issue the permit.
DEC is also implementing a robust groundwater study to monitor groundwater in the mine vicinity and detect any changes in groundwater quality that could be attributed to the mine or other sources. DEC will aggressively enforce any violations observed and hold responsible parties accountable for any groundwater contamination in the area.