Suffolk County construction crews are installing several devices that will help prevent solid waste and oils from running off land and roadways and into Riverhead’s Peconic River.
The swirl-separators, to be set up near Nugent Drive, will remove silt, sand, garbage and hydrocarbons like grease and oil that leak from vehicles and find their way into the river, said Suffolk County chief engineer Bill Hillman.
The devices each create a “whirlpool” that spins up to 80 percent of contaminants out of the runoff, he said.
The stormwater improvement project at the Peconic River is costing the county some $300,000, Suffolk officials said.
The Peconic River, along with Reeves and Flanders bay are listed as ecologically “impaired” due to pollutants from runoff, according to the county’s stormwater management program. Assistant Riverhead Town engineer Drew Dillingham said that since 2003, the town has been responsible for creating a plan to address runoff in nearby waterways, called an MS4.
Mr. Dillingham said the Peconic River and bays are “nitrogen and pathogen impaired,” meaning the levels of nitrogen and fecal coliform exceed state standards.
“The water bodies don’t have the capacity to carry out what our intentions are, such as swimming [or] shellfishing,” he said.
The town will submit a watershed improvement strategy to address the pollution in the Peconic River and in Meeting House and Terry’s creeks next January.
The Riverhead location along the Peconic is one of more than 100 locations being improved, though it’s the only county stormwater quality improvement project in the area, Mr. Hillman said.
“The Peconic [River] is an area we target,” he said. “It’s just one of the ones along the list.”
The construction work should be completed by October, officials said. The project is being funded through the county’s water quality fund, which is created by a quarter-percent county sales tax.
Read more in Thursday’s News-Review newspaper.