06/23/15 6:00am
06/23/2015 6:00 AM
North Fork egg farms such as Ty Llwyd (above) have not noticed a substantial increase in demand even though conventional egg prices are rising due to bird flu. (Credit: Chris Lisinski)

North Fork egg farms such as Ty Llwyd in Riverhead haven’t noticed a substantial increase in demand even though conventional egg prices are rising due to bird flu. (Credit: Chris Lisinski)

U.S. Senator Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) implored Congress Sunday not to cut federal funding for research to combat avian influenza as the price of eggs continues to rise.

Outbreaks of bird flu have damaged the poultry industry, Mr. Schumer said in a press release Monday, noting the average price of eggs in New York City is almost 50 percent higher than it was at this point last year.

As part of the proposed federal budget, the government would scale back its allocation to the U.S. Department of Agriculture by $500 million.

“This funding can be used towards preventing the outbreak from spreading,” Mr. Schumer said. “I am urging Congress to give USDA the funds it needs before the egg shortage gets worse, and before grocery bills continue to rise.”

But despite rising prices elsewhere in the state, many North Fork farmers haven’t noticed a change in demand for their locally produced eggs.

“We have been selling out of eggs most days, but that’s fairly normal for this time of year,” said Elizabeth Wines, owner of Ty Llywd farm in Riverhead. “We’ve been busy, but I think it’s probably because of the summer season.”

At Browder’s Birds in Mattituck, owners Chris and Holly Browder both noted a similar situation: they sell so many eggs in the summer that it’s difficult to see whether there has been a true increase in demand.

“How it plays out in the fall and the winter will be interesting to see if the flu is a problem, but right now, we really haven’t seen a big difference,” Mr. Browder said.

Although both the Browders and Ms. Wines hadn’t noticed much change from individual consumers, they said they have received a handful of inquiries from businesses looking to cut down on rising egg costs.

“I had one baker call who bakes for a lot of farmers markets because she buys the liquid eggs that are already broken, and her price doubled overnight,” Ms. Browder said. “She wanted to revert to buying dozens of whole eggs from me, but at this point in the season, I’m already maxed out.”

More than 48 million birds have died so far from bird flu in the United States this year, either as a result of the disease itself or from being culled to prevent further infection, according to the USDA. Bird flu has been confirmed in 15 states, most of which are in the Midwest.

No state east of Indiana has a confirmed case of avian flu, but because the Midwest produces so many eggs, consumers around the country have felt the diseases’ effects on the market.

“When the cost of eggs skyrockets, we all feel it in our wallets because, unlike other foods, most egg substitutes use egg ingredients,” Mr. Schumer said in his release.

In the New York region, the wholesale price for eggs — what businesses pay — was about 30 percent higher this May than in May 2014, according to a Tuesday report from the USDA. Schumer’s press release stated that supermarkets in New York City have increased the price of a dozen eggs by up to 48 percent.

Mr. Browder said such an uptick could be beneficial for his and other local farms.

“We’re expensive relative to a store-bought egg, so if the differential becomes smaller, then maybe the demand would pick up,” he said. “People who have said ‘Browder’s Birds is too expensive for us’ — maybe they’d reconsider.”

The Browders also said while it is important to fund an immediate solution, the government must also think critically about how industry standards affect the disease.

“As far as I know, outdoor hens like ours haven’t had a problem with avian flu,” Mr. Browder said. “Isn’t that interesting? To me, it’s the system of farming that’s probably to blame.”

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06/24/14 9:06am
06/24/2014 9:06 AM

east end helicopter noise long islandA mandate for helicopters to stay off Long Island’s north shore that was set to expire in August has been renewed by the federal government — though a loophole will still permit aircraft heading to the Hamptons to fly over the North Fork, and local representatives are still working to close it and force pilots to detour around Orient Point.

The goal of the renewed route, implemented by the Federal Aviation Administration in 2012, has been to reduce noise in residential areas that helicopters fly over on their ways to other locales on Long Island — namely, the Hamptons. The only way pilots can deviate from the route is for safety reasons, weather conditions, or if transitioning to or from a destination or point of landing.

But Southold Supervisor Scott Russell has said the last excuse to deviate from the plan hasn’t brought the expected results to Southold he was hoping for. And after U.S. Senator Charles Schumer and Congressman Tim Bishop issued a joint statement last week announcing that the current route was extended — and not expanded to require flights to head around Orient Point — Mr. Russell called the oversight of Southold residents “deplorable.”

“Quite candidly, our federally-elected representatives just sold us out for the interests of western Long Island,” he said. “This is a disaster for Southold.”

Mr. Schumer and Mr. Bishop said last week that the current route — which towns to the west of Southold have embraced — has been extended for another two years, and the two are working to make it permanent. The announcement came weeks after the two stated that they were attempting to get an extension on the current route requirements, while also pushing for an expansion to require flights to go around Orient Point.

The route requires every helicopter operating along Long Island between Visual Point Lloyd Harbor (VPLYD), located 20 miles north of LaGuardia Airport, and Orient Point to fly one mile off the north shore.

If pilots do not follow the route, they may face fines or have their pilots’ license revoked.

“Luckily for Long Island residents, the beginning of August will not also mean the return of onerous helicopter noise that once interrupted dinners, disrupted people enjoying their backyards and had an effect on quality of life and on property values,” Mr. Schumer said in a release.

Mr. Russell said on Tuesday that last week’s announcement was indeed good news for those on the western part of Long Island, and shrugged off any suggestion that it might have anything to do with the political make-up of Southold’s Town Board — which has no elected Democrats on it.

“This isn’t a partisan issue. This is an East versus West issue,” he said. “The lesser populated East End simply has less clout at the voting booth.”

While expressing satisfaction for the current route’s extension, both Mr. Schumer and Mr. Bishop stated that they hope to see further results and relief for Southold residents.

“It is my sincere hope that FAA will continue to review ways to minimize the reach of noise pollution,” he stated.

Mr. Russell said he would be reaching out to Mr. Bishop’s office this week to try to remedy the issue for Southold residents.

05/28/14 4:05pm
05/28/2014 4:05 PM

east-end-helicopter-noise-long-island

A temporary Federal Aviation Administration requirement that helicopters fly over Long Island Sound rather than homes on the North Fork is set to expire on Aug. 6, according to Congressman Tim Bishop (D-Southampton). Mr. Bishop and U.S. Senator Charles Schumer (D-Brooklyn) are now working on a bill to make that requirement permanent and to also extend the area where helicopters must stay over the water.  (more…)

02/18/14 7:00am
02/18/2014 7:00 AM
CARRIE MILLER PHOTO | Coast of the Long Island Sound in Greenport.

The Long Island Sound in Greenport. (Photo by Carrie Miller)

New legislation that would provide $325 million in federal funding for a Long Island Sound restoration project is heading to the U.S. Senate for a vote, according to a press release issued by U.S. Senator Charles Schumer’s office.

(more…)

02/05/14 2:00pm
02/05/2014 2:00 PM
A 'fisherman' at Kenny's Beach in Southold last week.(Stanley Siejka courtesy photo)

A ‘fisherman’ at Kenny’s Beach in Southold last week.(Stanley Siejka courtesy photo)

New York anglers can now enjoy the same fluke size and bag limits as neighboring New Jersey and Connecticut, leveling the playing field when it comes to catching one of region’s most popular fish — summer flounder, commonly known as fluke. (more…)

12/13/13 10:00am
12/13/2013 10:00 AM
CARRIE MILLER PHOTO | Newly-purchased fire hydrants may have to be sold for scrap if new federal regulations aren't changed or put on delay.

CARRIE MILLER PHOTO | Newly purchased fire hydrants may have to be sold for scrap if new federal regulations aren’t changed or delayed.

Stockpiles of fire hydrants previously purchased by local water districts could soon be useless following new federal standards for lead used in infrastructure that provides drinking water.

Effective Jan. 4., the maximum amount of lead allowed for use in pipes distributing drinking water will change from 8 percent to .25 percent — a new standard enacted by the Environmental Protection Agency.

The new standard is a result of the Reduction of Lead in Drinking Water Act passed in January 2011, aimed at reducing the amount of lead in drinking water pipes and other plumbing fixtures to protect public health.

Although the act was passed nearly three years ago, the EPA only recently indicated fire hydrants would have to meet the new standard – because they can be used to provide drinking water in emergency situations – according to a release from Sen. Charles Schumer’s office.

Any hydrant installed on or after Jan. 4 would need to meet the new EPA standard, according to the guidelines.

“As soon as [the law] was passed we changed our policy to immediately order fittings that didn’t contain lead so three years from then we’d be ready – nobody had any idea they were going to include fire hydrants,” said Suffolk County Water Authority commissioner James Gaughran. “Fire hydrants are used for fire safety purposes.”

He said had the agency known three years ago, it would have prepared to comply. They agency was notified Oct. 22, when a summary of the law’s guidelines was released by the EPA, he said.

The SCWA services about 1.2 million people annually through more than 37,000 hydrants, and services most of Southold Town.

The agency’s existing stock of hydrants yet to be used numbers about 400 — valued at about $1,000 apiece — that, combined with associated fittings, totals about $450,000 of what could be unusable equipment, Mr. Gaughran said. If no exemptions are made, or delay is granted by the EPA, the existing stockpile would be sold at scrap value, he said.

“We’re certainly concerned about lead contamination getting to the drinking water, but it takes a long time,” Mr. Gaughran said. “Give the industry time to develop and manufacture the new hydrants, so that there is competition – so we don’t get rate shocked,” he said. “Who knows, they could double or triple in price.”

Riverhead Town Water District Superintendent Gary Pendzick said he only keeps about a dozen new hydrants in stock, each valued at about $1,500.

“For us it’s not that much of a consequence,” Mr. Pendzick said, adding that he hopes to be able to order equipment to retrofit the hydrants he currently has in stock.

Problem is, the supply industry hasn’t had the time to manufacture parts that meet the new EPA standard, he said.

“We called to get pricing and our supplies said they are not making retrofit kits yet,” Mr. Pendzick said.
They are not even making the hydrants yet.

At a press conference Monday, Mr. Schumer called on the EPA to exempt existing stocks of fire hydrants purchased before it released the guidelines in October, which he says will save water districts thousands of dollars.

On Dec. 2, the House of Representatives unanimously passed legislation that would add fire hydrants to the list of devices exempt from the new lead standards – which includes toilets and shower parts. Action from the Senate and presidential approval would still be needed to fix the problem for local water districts.

Mr. Gaughran, who called the problem “just another example of government bureaucracy out of control,” said the agency replaces about 200 of its roughly 3,700 hydrants each year – many of which become damaged in winter storms and car accidents, he said.

The Riverhead Water District replaces about a dozen of its 2,000 hydrants each year, Mr. Pendzick said.

While lead is rarely found in source water, it can enter tap water through the corrosion of plumbing materials, according to the EPA.

Exposure to lead can affect nearly every system in the body, and exposure above levels of 15 parts per billion can cause  delays in physical and mental development in babies and children, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

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