East Hampton Town Sues DEC Over Sand Mine

T.E. McMorrow
The entrance to a sand mine that is at the center of a lawsuit East Hampton Town has filed against the State Department of Environmental Conservation.

The Town of East Hampton is suing the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation over a permit the agency issued in March that allows the operators of a sand mine to excavate into and far below ground water levels.

If the owner is allowed to mine sand and gravel, as has been laid out in the DEC permit, a 110-foot deep, sharply sloped artificial lake covering more than six acres of ground would eventually be created. It is located east of Middle Highway, a little over 300 yards north of Oakview Highway, in East Hampton.

The permit was issued despite the fact that the mine is in an area zoned residential, and “is in a designated Special Groundwater Protection Area and Critical Environmental Area,” a press release from the town states.

The mine, owned by a limited liability corporation named Sand Highway, which is run by Patrick Bistrian Jr.

Town officials are questioning the timing of the issuance of the permit, coming as it did smack in the middle of the COVID-19 pandemic, following over a year of review and the town’s objections. “The dramatic expansion of the mine is particularly troublesome given its proximity to Suffolk County’s sole-source aquifer, the community’s critical drinking water supply. It is also upgradient of well fields for two public water supply wells for the Suffolk County Water Authority.”

According to the town, the expansion of the mine “would not only be an environmental cataclysmic intrusion into the water table that serves as a sole source aquifer for the entire South Fork, but it is patently prohibited by the zoning code of the Town of East Hampton.”  The mine, located in the middle of a residential neighborhood, is a pre-existing, non-conforming site. Any expansion of such a site without approval from the town violates the its zoning laws.

“We are disappointed that the New York DEC would allow the expansion of this mine in a residential zone and we need to act in order to protect the community’s drinking water supply,” East Hampton Town Supervisor Peter Van Scoyoc said.

East Hampton has retained Daniel Ruzow of the law firm Whiteman Osterman & Hanna. The town board allocated $40,000 for the court action back in April, though that amount can be revisited, if need be.

The suit, which was to be filed at the New York State Civil Supreme Court in Riverhead June 25, charges that the DEC did not follow its own guidelines when it issued the permit. The town is seeking an injunction to prevent any expansion of the mine until the legal issues can be squared away.

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