10/27/14 3:00pm
10/27/2014 3:00 PM
Senator LaValle presented L.I. Farm Bureau executive director Joe Gergela with the Paul Stoutenburgh Leadership Award.

State Sen. Ken LaValle presented L.I. Farm Bureau executive director Joe Gergela with the Paul Stoutenburgh Leadership Award.

North Fork Environmental Council advocacy volunteers Friday celebrated the 2014 Paul Stoutenburgh Leadership Award winner, the first since the recent death of the council’s notable co-founder.

Long-time Long Island Farm Bureau executive director Joseph Gergela — who is retiring after 26 years in the role — received the award, a decision that came as a surprise to some, considering the fact that relationships between farmers and environmentalists can sometimes be seen as at-odds.

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10/27/14 12:00pm
(Credit: Courtesy SBU SoMAS)

(Credit: Courtesy SBU SoMAS)

Researchers from Stony Brook University and The Nature Conservancy released a map last week that depicts the location and breadth of water quality problems, such as brown tide and hypoxia, that cropped up around Long Island this past year.

While the experts noted the cool summer helped ward off the potential for widespread algal blooms, the blooms weren’t the only cause for concern in 2014.

And, the issues were widespread, ranging Long Island Sound waters near the Bronx and Queens, to Mattituck and Montauk.

The map highlights the presence of rust tides in the western Peconics, paralytic shellfish poisoning in Meetinghouse Creek in Aquebogue, and toxic blue-green algae in Mattituck’s Lake Marratooka, among others.

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10/24/14 3:00pm
10/24/2014 3:00 PM
Dieter Von Lehsten, the co-chair of Southampton Town's Sustainability Committee, at Riverhead Town Hall on Thursday. (Credit: Tim Gannon)

Dieter Von Lehsten, the co-chair of Southampton Town’s Sustainability Committee, at Riverhead Town Hall on Thursday. (Credit: Tim Gannon)

The Town Board appears split on a plastic shopping bag ban in Riverhead Town — last pitched to the board in May of this year — which was discussed in town hall last Thursday, and could be subject to an inter-municipal agreement with other towns and villages in the area.

Dieter Von Lehsten, the co-chair of Southampton Town’s Sustainability Committee, spoke at the work session to try and convince Riverhead to ban single use plastic shopping bags, something Southampton Town is considering and Southampton Village and East Hampton Village have done.

In May, members of the East End Supervisor’s Association said that they were aiming to pass an East End-wide plastic bag ban by Earth Day of 2015. Mr. Von Lehsten has since been making the rounds to East End towns and villages, trying to convince them to enact the ban.


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Riverhead Councilman John Dunleavy and Mr. Wooten said they both support the plastic bag ban, while Councilwoman Jodi Giglio said she wants to have a public hearing before deciding.

“Plastic bags are hurting our ecology,” Mr. Dunleavy said. “They don’t disintegrate.”

He said three large box stores in town — BJ’s Warehouse, Costco and Aldi — now ban plastic bags.

Riverhead Supervisor Sean Walter said that he’s already getting calls from the New York State Supermarket Retailers Association asking whether Riverhead plans to ban plastic shopping bags.

The supervisor believes there will be a lawsuit if the bag ban is enacted.

Mr. Von Lehsten said there has been no lawsuits filed against Southampton Village and East Hampton Village, which both adopted the ban in 2011.

“They don’t have the level of retailers that Riverhead does,” Mr. Walter said, alluding to the large national chain stores on Route 58. ”The lawsuit is going to happen.”

He suggested the five East End towns start a defense fund to pay the cost of any legal fees associated with a lawsuit challenging the plastic bags.

He feels the ban should be done on a county level, and not by individual towns.

“The single largest consumer item globally are single used plastic bags,” Mr. Von Lehsten said, quoting from various scientific studies. “We are using, by the lowest estimates, 500 billion to  one trillion bags annually.  That is a lot of plastic bags. And considering that these things never totally disintegrate, it is a gigantic environmental and health problem for us.”

He said the country goes through over 100 billion bags annually, and Southampton Town, uses 23 million bags annually.

“Only four to seven percent are recycled, and the rest goes into landfills or the ocean,” he said.

10/22/14 8:00am
10/22/2014 8:00 AM
A sandbar at the end of Pine Neck Road in Southold. (Credit: Barbaraellen Koch)

A sandbar at the end of Pine Neck Road in Southold. (Credit: Barbaraellen Koch)

It’s no Mega Millions, but 19 Suffolk County homeowners will soon hit the lottery in a county drawing to test new wastewater treatment systems.

Suffolk County officials are seeking homeowners willing to offer their properties as testing sites for advanced wastewater treatment systems, in hopes of finding a system suitable for use in individual homes.  (more…)

10/03/14 4:00pm
10/03/2014 4:00 PM
Riverhead High School students count the different types of species caught in their seine. (Credit: Carrie Miller)

Riverhead High School students count the different types of species caught in their seine. (Credit: Carrie Miller)

Students immersed chest-high in waders as they worked with fishing nets explored East End shorelines Wednesday morning, learning what “A Day in the Life of the Peconic Estuary” is like.

About 400 middle and high school students ditched their classrooms, rolling up their sleeves to collect data samples from one of 11 different beaches in an endeavor sponsored by over 30 environmental agencies to help inspire younger generations to learn about water quality issues.

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10/02/14 8:00am
10/02/2014 8:00 AM
One local expert says stink bugs may become more of an annoyance in years to come.  (Dan Gilrein courtesy)

One local expert says stink bugs may become more of an annoyance in years to come. (Dan Gilrein courtesy)

For one thing, they are aptly named.

Residents who casually squash a halyomorpha halys underfoot will be assaulted by a sharp odor coming from the deceased marmorated (marbled) stink bug.

The smelly critters are here, with some people saying their houses are full of them: climbing walls, underfoot (careful) and hanging out in window curtains and drapes. “Everyone’s asking me about stink bugs,” said Wally Ogar of East End Pest Control on Shelter Island. “I’ve got them in my house, too.”

He’s not the only one. Joanne Sherman said she had never seen one until this spring, and there was no trace of them this summer. But just recently they were back. Neighbors, Ms. Sherman said, told her their house is covered with the bugs.

Mr. Ogar said it’s not a new phenomenon, but happens every fall when the bugs, ready to hibernate, make their way into houses.

But Craig Rosenberg of North Shore Exterminating in Southold said stink bugs are relatively new residents of the East End.

Daniel Gilrein, an entomologist with Cornell Cooperative Extension of Suffolk County, said “there had been low numbers of stink bugs recorded over the last several years,” but that he and his colleagues “have seen more this year than previously.”

Mr. Gilrein added that he had about 15 in his Riverhead house last week.

Stink bugs might smell bad if roughed up, but they don’t bite and won’t hurt pets or do any structural damage. They’re unsightly and can be a nuisance in large numbers, the entomologist said. Stink bugs are not so benign to farms, orchards or gardens, however, feeding on fruits and leaves.

The jury is still out on getting rid of them, according to Mr. Rosenberg, who is cautious about using insecticides in homes without more information. He’s consulted with Mr. Gilrein and other entomologists and is waiting for upcoming seminars that will address a stink bug solution.

Mr. Rosenberg and Mr. Ogar said some insecticides can be put down outside houses near foundation lines, and Mr. Rosenberg has used “fly lights” in attics, which attracts the bugs and then captures them.

They can be vacuumed, Mr. Ogar said, but the bag has to be thrown away immediately. What should you do if you’re sharing quarters with stink bugs?

Mr. Gilrein advised making sure all possible entry points are sealed or screened off, but admitted this could be impossible for older homes.

“Over the next few years the population may be building, so if that’s the case and they become a serious annoyance, you might contact a pest control professional for assistance,” he added.

What shouldn’t you do if you’ve got stink bugs in the house?

“Panic,” Mr. Gilrein said.