Land Mines

Hamptons Editorial

Back in the day, there were no sidewalks, and driveways and roads were made of dirt.

Mining was akin to farming; working the land and providing the community with resources it needed to survive and grow.

We have two mines that want to expand locally in Speonk and East Hampton, and a third that has been embroiled in litigation for quite some time in Noyac. For that reason, we will limit our comments to the first two.

Sand Highway LLC in East Hampton wants to create a six-acre pond on Middle Lane. The Bistrians control the mine, a powerful local family with deep roots in mining and farming. Their land holdings are worth a fortune nowadays, but no one envied the old timers who painstakingly dug through the rock-infested dirt and sold truckloads of whatever they could lift out of the holes for pennies on the pound.

One local newspaper said the mine is “in the midst of a residential neighborhood.” Technically, that’s true, but none of those houses were built back then. Every owner built knowing what was next door.

Approval for mine expansion requires Department of Environmental Conservation approval. The DEC granted Huntington Ready Mixed Concrete Inc. in Speonk a permit to expand its 13-acre mine and excavate enough to create a five-acre lake, and approved the Sand Highway permit application as well.

The excavations might hurt property values, and it is possible the groundwater in the immediate area could be affected, although that is a card played too often to restrict legal expansion. It’s easy for neighbors to urge the town to sue, which is expensive to the taxpayers, but on what grounds? That a mining company is mining its property that is zoned for mining?

Digging a hole in East Hampton hardly compares to what the Town of East Hampton did across the street at the landfill, where hundreds of tons of garbage were buried. Where was the concern for the groundwater then?

Comprehensive guidelines of what can and can’t be done at mines have to be drafted at the state level before the town tries to enforce non-existing laws. It appears public officials want very much to make the mining companies the bad guys here, but keep in mind it is an election year. In both cases, the mines applied for and were granted legal permits. Neighbors should point their ire in the right direction.

That said, the specter of giant lakes near where our kids and pets play is cause for grave concern, and safety should be a major focus.

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